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Cost-saving scheme launched for schools

    A new scheme is under way to help Jewish schools cut their running costs and save more of their money for teaching.

    The Jewish Schools Network believes that it will be more cost-effective for schools to buy utilities and services collectively rather than alone.

    Brian Jones, who joined the Michael Sobell Sinai Primary School in London as finance director in September, has been seconded one day a week to be chief commercial officer for the network, which has been launched by Partnerships for Jewish Schools (Pajes).

    "We are at an embryonic stage," he said, "I've been running it for five weeks. But we hope to move forward quite quickly."

    Several schools are facing particular financial challenges as a result of lower grants from their local authorities.

    Schools could make savings of 10 to 20 per cent

    In addition, Mr Jones explained, "there are increases in teacher's salaries, national insurance and pensions. Overall, 75 to 80 per cent of school costs are staff.

    "We are assessing what schools need and the areas where we can utilise opportunities for bulk purchasing."

    He envisaged that schools would be able to make savings of 10 to 20 per cent in certain areas and hoped that they might start seeing the practical benefits within a couple of months.

    Negotiations are in progress for bulk purchasing in insurance, utilities such as gas, water and electricity and agency staffing.

    There are also areas of maintenance such as compliance checks for asbestos which could be covered by a collective agreement.

    Over the past six months, Pajes has held meetings with headteachers from schools in London, Manchester and Gateshead in order to garner cross-communal support for the initiative.

    Beyond bulk purchasing, JSN has been set up to encourage wider collaboration among schools, promising to offer them "competitive, sustainable and high- quality educational programming, services and support".

    Some schools are facing additional financial pressure after being told by Her Majesty's Custom and Revenue that they cannot claim tax relief through Gift Aid on parental contributions for Jewish studies. Pajes is co-ordinating efforts to persuade the tax authorities not to implement the change.

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