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Government approval for cross-communal Jewish free schools

    Children at south London’s only Jewish nursery, the Wimbledon Synagogue-based Apples and Honey
    Children at south London’s only Jewish nursery, the Wimbledon Synagogue-based Apples and Honey

    Two new cross-communal Jewish primary schools are among the latest batch of free schools to be approved by the government, as well as a Jewish high school for Leeds.

    South London is finally to get the Jewish primary school it has long dreamed of, while a group of Jewish parents in Finchley, North London, are also celebrating their successful application.

    The Leeds project, which was rejected last year, was one of more than 100 new free schools given the go-ahead to open in 2013.

    But two other Jewish bidders failed to make the cut this time: Beis Malka, an independent Chasidic girls' school in Hackney, North London, seeking to enter the new state system and a planned new strictly Orthodox primary school with separate classes for boys and girls in Hendon, North-West London.

    Shirley Lee, who co-chairs the steering group for the South London school, said they were "thrilled" at the news. "Our vision for a Jewish primary school south of the river has taken about two long years to reach this point. Although for many of us the work is just beginning we feel we can pause briefly to congratulate everyone for their contributions.

    "Our vision of a pluralist educational environment that reflects the make up of the South London community is becoming a reality. The challenges for the next twelve months are significant. We will begin work straight away on sourcing premises, appointing highly qualified staff and enrolling pupils. We are really fortunate though as we have an amazing team and a distinctive model on which to build."

    Also scheduled to open next year is a cross-communal school in the Woodside Park and North Finchley area. Natalie Grazin, who is responsible for the school's ethos, said: "For the first time, a high level of Kodesh (Jewish Studies) and modern Hebrew will be available to all children, including those from non-Orthodox backgrounds."

    Since the school's creation was first proposed late last year, 230 children have been registered as reception pupils. "We already have two children registered for every place in the first three years" commented the project's head of outreach David Steadman. "This reflects the thirst for a new type of Jewish education, as well as the lack of a Jewish primary school in the Woodside Park and North Finchley area".

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