Heads up­set as JFS re­jects their pupils

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY SI­MON ROCKER

JEWISH PRI­MARY school heads have voiced dis­may that their pupils are not been given pri­or­ity at JFS.

Vivi­enne Orloff, head of the Michael So­bell Si­nai School, a United Syn­a­gogue pri­mary which lies next door to JFS in Ken­ton, said it was “ridicu­lous” that chil­dren from Jewish pri­maries did not get pref­er­ence. “It’s heart­break­ing when you have the school on your doorstep. We want all our chil­dren to con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion and what’s im­por­tant is that the par­ents want them to.”

Four Si­nai pupils un­able to get into Yavneh or JFS this year were found places in King Solomon in Red­bridge, but for a fifth, the jour­ney was too far.

At Mo­riah in Pin­ner, Har­row — which, like JFS, is also a US school — head­teacher the Rev­erend Alan Shaw said: “We had three who did not get into JFS who wanted to.

“All of them are dis­traught. I feel very strongly that fam­i­lies who have shown com­mit­ment to a Jewish ed­u­ca­tion at pri­mary school should have been given pri­or­ity to a Jewish secondary school above those who could have gone but chose not to.”

One of the Mo­riah three was 11-yearold Re­becca Persell from Pin­ner, who had been looking for­ward to mov­ing with her friends to JFS. In­stead she has had to opt for a lo­cal com­pre­hen­sive, a lone Jewish child among hun­dreds in her year.

“She was dev­as­tated, she can’t un­der- stand it,” said her mother He­lena. “I was dev­as­tated, too — I ended up at the doc­tor’s. She feels com­pletely iso­lated. She told me the girls at her new school wear trousers but she doesn’t want to be­cause she wants to still feel Jewish.

“It’s un­fair that chil­dren who have not been to a Jewish pri­mary should get places ahead of those who have.”

JFS had to re­vise its ad­mis­sions pol­icy rules af­ter the Court of Ap­peal ruled in the sum­mer that schools could no longer of­fer places sim­ply on the ba­sis of whether a child was Jewish. But the change would have made no dif­fer­ence to Rachel’s sit­u­a­tion.

JFS has 300 first-year places avail­able, but was heav­ily over­sub­scribed. Of 43 ap­peals on be­half of re­jected pupils, only three were suc­cess­ful.

In a let­ter on be­half of Re­becca to the ap­peal panel, which is ad­min­is­tered in­de­pen­dently from JFS, Mr Shaw had writ­ten: “She is a well-liked girl whose friends are all from Mo­riah and have pro­vided her with much-needed sta­bil­ity over the years.

“We are ex­tremely con­cerned that be­ing placed in an un­known en­vi­ron­ment without her sup­port net­work could lead to se­vere emo­tional prob­lems as Re­becca en­ters ado­les­cence.”

Ms Persell is a sin­gle mother and Re­becca is dyslexic. “Mo­riah re­ally drew us into the com­mu­nity and we got a lot of sup­port from the school which I never got be­fore,” Ms Persell said.

“From a very early age, Re­becca and her friends talked about JFS. That’s where they ex­pected to go. They had ac­tiv­i­ties at JFS in year five. They all came back skip­ping and jump­ing and say­ing that’s where they wanted to go.”

She did also ap­ply to Yavneh, in Bore­ham­wood, but was told Re­becca was 175th on the wait­ing list. And al­though King Solomon had spare places, the trav­el­ling dis­tance made it im­prac­ti­cal.

Mr Shaw said the par­ents of re­jected pupils were “very up­set. They have done se­cu­rity duty, they have shown com­mit­ment, they have sup­ported our school in all sorts of ways. I sym­pa­thise with them.”

JFS de­clined to com­ment.

Re­becca Persell : no place at JFS

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