Meet the head who is chang­ing the land­scape of Jewish ed­u­ca­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY CHAR­LOTTE OLIVER

IT IS not of­ten that you are handed a hard hat at a job in­ter­view. But then, pro­tec­tive gear seems sym­bol­i­cally apt for Pa­trick Mo­ri­arty as he kicked off his ca­reer at the Jewish Com­mu­nity Sec­ondary School (JCoSS).

Af­ter all, the 49-year-old is all about break­ing new ground. He be­gan as deputy head of the Bar­net school in 2010 — when it was lit­tle more than lines on a draw­ing board — and two years later, took over as head­teacher.

In that short but busy time, he has ce­mented JCoSS’s po­si­tion as a trail­blazer — not only as the first se­nior school of its kind to of­fer a cross-communal Jewish ed­u­ca­tion, but also as the first to house on its site a mas­sive state-ofthe-art fa­cil­ity for chil­dren with spe­cial needs.

And what is, most likely, an­other first for the com­mu­nity, he hap­pens to be half­way through his three-year train­ing to be­come an Angli­can priest.

The roles, he points out, are com­ple­men­tary.

“The job of a head­teacher, in the loos­est sense, is a spir­i­tual one,” Mr Mo­ri­arty says. “What you have to do is em­body a cer­tain set of val­ues that are big­ger than the school. What­ever you do is sym­bolic, and there­fore spir­i­tual.

“Train­ing as a priest is all about re­flect­ing on how sys­tems are or­gan­ised, on com­pas­sion, and on how we c a n c r e a t e a com­mu­nity that is big­ger than the sum of its parts and has a con­nec­tion to some­thing higher.”

He adds: “In some ways, I think the same im­pulses that led me to ex­plore priest­hood also led me to ex­plore school lead­er­ship. And work­ing for a Jewish school, the cross­over is huge.

“I am con­stantly struck by the deep con­ver­sa­tions I have with Jewish col­leagues and pupils. That has brought home to me the fact that, the deeper you go into spir­i­tual life, the more com­mon ground you find be­tween dif­fer­ent faiths.”

Born and raised in Hamp­stead Gar­den Sub­urb and ed­u­cated at Hab­er­dash­ers’ Boys’ in El­stree, Mr Mo­ri­arty says he al­ways “felt like I lived among and on the edges of the Jewish com­mu­nity”.

He stud­ied the­ol­ogy and phi­los­o­phy at Ox­ford, be­fore re­turn­ing to Lon­don for his teacher train­ing. Early teach­ing posts paved the way to a 12-year stint as head of re­li­gion and phi­los­o­phy, and then as head of sixth form, at the UK’s lead­ing Hab­er­dash­ers’ Girls’ school.

It had to take some­thing spe­cial to lure him away.

“It’s quite hard to leave a place like Habs,” he ex­plains. “But here was some­thing very dif­fer­ent — a new school with a new vi­sion.

“I had taught in a Jewish school be­fore, so I knew it would have its act to­gether. It would be well-or­gan­ised and well-thought through, its gov­er­nance would be sound, its fi­nance would be sound, it would have sought ex­cel­lent le­gal and pro­fes­sional ad­vice.

“But above all, it was the vi­sion of what the school was go­ing to be: this plu­ral­ist, high-achiev­ing en­vi­ron­ment. I just thought it was really ex­cit­ing and worth leav­ing Habs for.”

He knew he was board­ing a ship sail­ing un­charted wa­ters. As the first cross­com­mu­nal Jewish sec­ondary school in the UK, JCoSS, with its mes­sage of in­clu­siv­ity, im­me­di­ately dis­tin­guished it­self from the ex­ist­ing Ortho­dox-run schools in the com­mu­nity. Sud­denly, chil­dren who be­fore may not have qual­i­fied to at­tend a Jewish sec­ondary school would be able to pursue a Jewish ed­u­ca­tion un­til the age of 18.

But, he says, he wasn’t pre­pared for

Here­was some­thing very dif­fer­ent: a new school­witha newvi­sion’

JCoSS head Pa­trick Mo­ri­arty with stu­dents

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