Two Jewish schools have acted to ease parents’ concern over the lack of places by announcing plans for a major expansion from next year.
In a joint statement, JCoSS and JFS pledged to add 90 Year 7 entry places from September 2018, providing they can find the necessary funding.
If the plans go ahead, the cross-communal JCoSS will make its bulge class of 30 additional places this September a permanent feature, while the Orthodox JFS will add two extra forms next year.
But despite the prospect of more places, the sponsors of the New Jewish High School said they still intended to go ahead with their application to open a Jewish secondary free school in 2018.
Deborah Lipkin, executive head of JFS and Patrick Moriarty, head of JCoSS, said they believed their proposed expansion strategy would “solve” current under-capacity and “would have a positive impact on the long-term sustainability of Jewish schools”.
Citing research conducted by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research — which published a new report this week — they said it was “likely that approximately 90 additional school places are needed from 2018 for children who wish to attend a Jewish school.”
JFS, which is already the largest Jewish school in Europe with almost 2,100 pupils, said it had secured a “substantial donation” that would go towards improving technical and vocational education at the school, as well as providing additional teaching spaces. Both schools added that they would seek additional state and private investment.
Under the expansion plans, JCoSS, in New Barnet, London, would maintain this year’s increased intake from 180 to 210, while JFS would expand from 300 to 360 next year. JFS is currently considering whether to accept an extra 30 pupils this year.
But the expansion scheme comes amid increasing funding pressure on schools owing to planned changes in the allocation of government money. Earlier this week, Mrs Lipkin warned parents that the combination of cuts and rising costs could lead to a £900,000 reduction in JFS’s budget by by 2019. The prospect of a three per cent cut in state funding would be “untenable and would damage the education of students”, she said.
Some parents have already expressed concern about the prospect of more pupils at JFS.
One mother, who did not wish to be named, said she was “not very happy about this. The school is already far too big and there seem to be lots of issues with teachers being moved around, affecting my child’s education. I can’t believe she will soon be at a school where there are 360 children in a year. It seems unworkable and, frankly, a bit ridiculous.”
Another also was “not keen. My anxiety is where are they going to find the teachers.”
Earlier this month, JFS announced it was having to make teachers redundant due to budget cuts.
However, the move by the two schools was welcomed by the Jewish Leadership Council’s education division, Partnerships for Jewish Schools.
Its executive director Rabbi David Meyer said the extra capacity would “help ensure sufficient secondary school places for the coming year.
“This decision is a result of the close collaboration we have facilitated between all the secondary schools and was informed by the research from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research we commissioned.”
But Maurice Askenazi-Bakes, who is jointly co-ordinating the NJHS bid, said there was “still no guarantee” the extra places at other schools would materialise “because of the funding. I deal in definites, not maybes. We are trying to solve a long-term problem for the community.”
He pointed out that neither JFS, in Kenton, north-west London, nor JCoSS was in the best location for pupils for the growing Jewish population of Hertfordshire.
“We ought to make the school accessible to where the community is expanding,” he said.