New places will not e derail school bid
THE ANNOUNCEMENT this week of planned additional places at existing Jewish secondary schools has not deterred a fresh bid to open a new school.
Supporters of the application, which was rejected in December, hope to reapply in the spring.
The cross-communal JCoSS will offer an additional 30 places this September and JFS is ready to do likewise to meet rising demand in north-west London.
The Jewish Leadership Council’s education division, Partnership for Jewish Schools, said other Jewish schools were now collaborating over a longerterm solution to ensure there would be enough places within the system.
But Maurice Ashkenazi-Bakes, coordinator of the Kavanah College free school proposal, insisted it was “full steam ahead”.
Andrew Rotenberg, another Kavanah team member, said he was pleased at the “short-term fix” of up to 60 additional places this year. But
he stressed “that still does not solve the longer term need. Until there is a clear public commitment from the existing schools to provide a specific number of additional places in future years, I don’t expect primary school parents whose children are not in Year 6 to be comforted by the announcement.”
Kavanah and a second Jewish free school applicant, Barkai College, were both rejected by the Department for Education in December partly because of the “disproportionate” amount of Jewish studies and Hebrew they timetabled — even though it was no more than in existing Jewish schools.
A spokesman for the Board of Deputies said it had been following up the issue “with ministers and officials”.
But a government source has indicated the true reason for turning down both proposals was that the state did not wish to decide which school was better for the Jewish community.
Mr Ashkenazi-Bakes said since the rejection of the original bids ,“conversations” had taken place with Barkai. As for the two groups supporting a single, joint application, he added: “The door is open.”
Barkai’s team will meet next month to decide their position.
According to Pajes, the number of Jewish applicants to mainstream Jewish secondaries in London is expected to increase from 1,057 last year to 1,191 in September 2020 — an increase of 134.
While the educational agency is confident enough places will be made available in existing schools, it could not yet specify which will be in a position to expand longer-term — apart from Hasmonean, which hopes to increase its intake by 30 in a few years.
Rabbi David Meyer, executive director of Pajes, said the expansion plan would “ensure a cost-effective longterm provision for our children”.
JCoSS will increase its offers from 180 to 210 for 2017 entry, while JFS is ready to increase its intake from 300 to 330 if the need arises.
Patrick Moriarty, headteacher of JCoSS, hoped the extra places would “go some way to relieving the pressure for many anxious families”.