School entry plan will ‘destroy community’
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.
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