No cap on re­li­gious stud­ies gives new hope to par­ents

The Jewish Chronicle - - EDUCATION - BY SI­MON ROCKER

THE DEPART­MENT for Ed­u­ca­tion has said there is no cap on the amount of re­li­gious stud­ies that can be taught in a free faith school, in an at­tempt to al­lay con­cerns within the Jewish com­mu­nity.

The Board of Deputies has been press­ing the gov­ern­ment to clar­ify its pol­icy fol­low­ing the re­jec­tion of ap­pli­ca­tions to open a new Jewish sec­ondary free school in Lon­don from Barkai Col­lege and Ka­vanah Col­lege two months ago.

A DfE spokesman said on Wed­nes­day: “All schools are re­quired to teach a broad and bal­anced cur­ricu­lum. We do not set a re­quire­ment on how much of the cur­ricu­lum should be ded­i­cated to any par­tic­u­lar sub­ject.”

How­ever, both Barkai and Ka­vanah had been turned down partly be­cause of the amount of time they planned to de­vote to Jewish stud­ies and He­brew.

Barkai, which planned to al­lo­cate 20 per cent of the cur­ricu­lum in the first two years to the sub­jects, was told that the amount of time was “dis­pro­por­tion­ate” com­pared with that for maths and English.

Phil Rosen­berg, the Board’s di­rec­tor of pub­lic af­fairs, said: “It is our un­der­stand­ing that the

DfE con­tin­ues to wel­come ap­pli­ca­tions for Jewish free schools and that there is no pre­scrip­tion on the amount of time al­lowed for re­li­gious stud­ies.”

A gov­ern­ment source last month sug­gested that the main rea­son for re­ject­ing the bids was that the au­thor­i­ties did not want to de­cide be­tween them: a sin­gle bid would have been more wel­come.

While the gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to lift re­stric­tions on the num­ber of places free schools can al­lo­cate on the ba­sis of faith, it seem­ingly still wants a faith school to be open to pupils from dif­fer­ent faiths.

In dis­cus­sions with the DfE last week, Barkai rep­re­sen­ta­tives were asked what ar­range­ments they would make for non-Jewish pupils if the school closed at lunch time in win­ter be­cause of Shabb at.

Eve Sacks, chair­man of Barkai, said the ques­tion high­lighted an ex­pec­ta­tion that the school would be “equally at­trac­tive to chil­dren of other faiths and of no faith”. The DfE, she said, “would ex­pect a Jewish free school to run an op­tional ex­tra cur­ricu­lum club on Fri­day af­ter­noons in the win­ter un­til nor­mal school clos­ing time”.

Ka­vanah has in­di­cated it will bid again in spring, but Barkai has yet to de­cide.

Mr Rosen­berg and Ju­dith Nemeth, Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ortho­dox Jewish Schools di­rec­tor, were among faith school rep­re­sen­ta­tives who met Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Jus­tine Green­ing last week.


Jus­tine Green­ing

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