School en­try plan will ‘de­stroy com­mu­nity’

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHAR­LOTTE OLIVER

THREE UNITED Syn­a­gogue rab­bis have warned that a Jewish sec­ondary school’s plan to change its ad­mis­sions pol­icy could spell disas­ter for thriv­ing com­mu­ni­ties in Hert­ford­shire.

The rab­bis — Meir Salas­nik of Bushey, Jonathan Hughes of Radlett and Ephraim Levine of Wat­ford — said Yavneh Col­lege’s pro­posal to end its feeder school sys­tem would mean an ex­o­dus of young fam­i­lies.

From 2017, Yavneh Col­lege, in Bore­ham­wood, which has more than 1,000 pupils, wants to stop its pol­icy of pri­ori­tis­ing ap­pli­ca­tions from chil­dren at two Jewish pri­maries — Hertsmere in Radlett and Clore Shalom in Shen­ley — and in­stead give pref­er­ence to fam­i­lies liv­ing in se­lected post­codes.

Op­po­nents of the move fear chil­dren at schools out­side Bore­ham­wood will lose out.

In an on­line ar­ti­cle for the JC, the rab­bis said the pro­posed change would see par­ents move away, “tak­ing their chil­dren, their ideas and their en­thu­si­asm with them… Within a few years, we risk los­ing the most valu­able things we have — our chil­dren and our fu­ture”.

The rab­bis, who to­gether rep­re­sent more than 3,350 con­gre­gants, said the plan would re­sult in a “de­press­ing vi­sion be­com­ing a re­al­ity” where their com­mu­ni­ties would be “de­void of youth, en­ergy and vi­tal­ity”. They added that the school had can­celled at short no­tice a meet­ing sched­uled with Yavneh’s head­teacher Spencer Lewis and its gov­er­nors to dis­cuss their con­cerns.

In re­sponse to the rab­bis’ claims, the school said that “be­cause of the great de­mand for places… the num­ber of stu­dents ac­cepted into the school from each of the com­mu­ni­ties led by th­ese rab­bis is al­ready in sin­gle dig­its, and so we would cau­tion against hy­per­bolic sug­ges­tions that th­ese pro­posed changes place the ‘fu­ture of com­mu­ni­ties at risk’, when in re­al­ity we are talk­ing about no more than a hand­ful of fam­i­lies.”

A JEWISH SCHOOL has is­sued a new ta­ble of data show­ing the likely ef­fect on ad­mis­sions of pro­pos­als to end its feeder school sys­tem.

Yavneh Col­lege pro­duced the new ta­ble af­ter par­ents ar­gued that an orig­i­nal set of sta­tis­tics showed that some fam­i­lies would lose out un­der the pro­posed new ar­range­ment.

Yavneh, in Bore­ham­wood, Hert­ford­shire, wants to stop its pol­icy of pri­ori­tis­ing ap­pli­ca­tions from chil­dren at two Jewish pri­maries in neig­bour­ing Radlett and Shen­ley, and in­stead give pref­er­ence to fam­i­lies liv­ing in se­lected post­codes.

Ac­cord­ing to the new fig­ures, if the new sys­tem had ap­plied in 2015, the in­take from Bushey, El­stree, Radlett, Shen­ley and Bore­ham­wood would have ei­ther in­creased or stayed the same.

Last week, the JC re­ported that a group rep­re­sent­ing more than 400 par­ents had ob­tained fig­ures from the school un­der a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest. The par­ents claimed the data showed that, with­out feeder schools, places at Yavneh would in­crease for fam­i­lies in Bore­ham­wood and El­stree, but fall else­where.

If the pro­posed change had been in place last year, places for fam­i­lies in Bore­ham­wood could have risen by 117 per cent in 2015, but could have fallen by 91 per cent in Bushey, the par­ents said.

Yavneh re­sponded by say­ing that the par­ents’ com­plaints were based on a se­ri­ous mis­un­der­stand­ing of the FoI data. A source close to the school said that the fig­ures proved that the num­ber of places would have ei­ther stayed the same or in­creased for all Hert­ford­shire com­mu­ni­ties.

How­ever, the par­ents’ group — which rep­re­sents fam­i­lies with chil­dren at­tend­ing Hertsmere Jewish Pri­mary and Clore Shalom, schools which cur­rently feed into Yavneh — crit­i­cised the ex­pla­na­tion as “patently and ob­vi­ously un­true”.

A spokesper­son for the par­ents’ group said: “I am gen­uinely con­fused as to how there can be any am­bi­gu­ity. We have al­ready iden­ti­fied three chil­dren in Wat­ford and Shen­ley who have been left off the ta­ble, and we sus­pect two oth­ers might also have been left off.”

Ac­cord­ing to the group, the school has also ig­nored at­tempted in­ter­ven­tions made by rab­bis in the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties.

Last month, five United Syn­a­gogue rab­bis from Bushey, Radlett, Wat­ford, St Al­bans and Hadley Wood banded to­gether to ex­press their con­cerns about the school’s pro­posal.

In a “res­o­lu­tion” sent by Rabbi Meir Salas­nik of Bushey United Syn­a­gogue to Yavneh’s chair of gov­er­nors Sue Ny­man, its head­teacher Spencer Lewis and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the rabbi wrote: “Our five com­mu­ni­ties, home to well over 10,000 Jews, face the real dan­ger that any prox­im­ity test will ben­e­fit Bore­ham­wood fam­i­lies at the ex­pense of all other Jewish fam­i­lies in Hert­ford­shire.”

The spokesper­son for the par­ents’ group said that Yavneh had agreed to a meet­ing, but can­celled “at very short no­tice and have re­mained to­tally silent” about their con­cerns.

Yavneh is eval­u­at­ing re­sponses to its ad­mis­sions con­sul­ta­tion, which ended ear­lier this month. The re­sults are ex­pected to be pub­lished at the end of Fe­bru­ary.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Natalia Co­hen ( se­cond right) cel­e­brates with her crew­mates af­ter be­com­ing the first fe­male row­ers to cross the Pa­cific. The Cox­less Crew took six months to com­plete the 9,700-mile jour­ney from San Fran­cisco to Cairns, Aus­tralia. Ms Co­hen, 40, of north-west Lon­don, said she felt a mix­ture of sad­ness that the epic ad­ven­ture was over but elated at her achieve­ment

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