When school of­fers do not go your way…

The Jewish Chronicle - - EDUCATION - BY SI­MON ROCKER

THE WAIT is nearly over. Next Wed­nes­day par­ents up and down the coun­try will know which state sec­ondary school their chil­dren have been al­lo­cated for en­try this Septem­ber.

While there will be joy and relief in many house­holds, for oth­ers the nail­bit­ing will only just be­gin as, hav­ing failed to get their pre­ferred op­tions they must take a chance on the wait­ing lists.

In Lon­don last year, around 69 per cent of ap­pli­cants re­ceived their firstchoice school.

No one can pre­dict whether this year there will be a re­peat of the past two years, when there were Jewish chil­dren in north-west Lon­don with­out any lo­cal Jewish sec­ondary school to go to. But Jewish education lead­ers are qui­etly hope­ful ex­tra places will mean room for all, even if not ev­ery­one gets their first choice.

JCoSS has in­creased its first-year in­take from 180 to 210, while JFS may also ex­pand from 300 to 330 de­pend­ing on de­mand.

Ap­pli­ca­tions to both Yavneh Col­lege and JFS have ac­tu­ally dropped this year — but that means lit­tle as both re­main heav­ily over­sub­scribed. The num­ber of on­line ap­pli­cants to JFS fell from 779 to 714 this year and from 545 to 492 for 150 places at Yavneh.

More than half the places at JFS last year, 166, went to sib­lings. Over­all, 79 per cent of the places went to those who put the school as their first choice, 16 per cent sec­ond choice and around five per cent third.

At Yavneh last year, 66 out of 180 places went to sib­lings — but the school is not re­peat­ing last year’s one-off bulge class. Over­all, 173 out of the 222 who put the school first pref­er­ence got in, while just six who listed it sec­ond, and one third, were also suc­cess­ful.

Tracy El­lis knows how dis­ap­point­ing the lot­tery sys­tem used to de­ter­mine places can be. In 2015, her son Alex, a pupil at Mathilda Marks-Kennedy Jewish Pri­mary School, failed to get any of the four Jewish state sec­ondary schools he ap­plied to.

He even­tu­ally started Christ’s Col­lege in Finch­ley (Lord Sacks’s alma mater) with three other Jewish pupils in his year. “He was fine,” his mother said. But be­cause of the un­cer­tainty of his school des­ti­na­tion, she said, “I don’t think that he felt able to en­joy the end of Year 6 as much as he would have liked.”

Then, out of the blue, three months ago, a Year 8 place be­came avail­able at JFS and now Alex has moved there. It means his younger brother will be able to go there later as a si­b­ling.

But sis­ter Lucy was left with­out a Jewish school when she ap­plied last year. She is now at Mill Hill County and al­though she is set­tled, her mother be­lieves she would be hap­pier at a Jewish school. “When Alex got the JFS place, peo­ple were say­ing ‘get the cham­pagne out’ but I don’t feel able to do that un­til Lucy is sorted as well,” Mrs El­lis said. “It’s very frus­trat­ing, the ran­dom­ness of it all.”

For fam­i­lies in a sim­i­lar boat, she

More than half the places at JFS went to sib­lings

sug­gests “widen your com­pass” and look se­ri­ously at schools that may be less fa­mil­iar. But if your child is on a wait­ing list, “be pre­pared for a bit of a bumpy ride”.

Sophia Ja­cobs had to wait sev­eral months un­til a prized place came up at JFS. She was fi­nally suc­cess­ful only af­ter the fourth ad­mis­sions round in June.

“I was a bit calmer than my wife,” said her fa­ther Spencer. “We put down three Jewish schools and two lo­cal schools and we didn’t get any of them at first.”

Al­though they did con­sider the school Sophia was ini­tially al­lot­ted, they felt it was not right for her. “Other par­ents told us to be pa­tient, don’t worry, some­thing will hap­pen. But I still know peo­ple who did not get a place of their choice.”

And wait­ing for JFS cost him £2,000. As a pre­cau­tion, his daugh­ter sat the exam for the pri­vate Im­manuel Col­lege and was of­fered a place there, which re­quired the fam­ily to put down a non­re­turn­able de­posit.

But he is “de­lighted” with JFS and Sophia is “thrilled to bits”.

For fam­i­lies this year who may face a nerve-wrack­ing few months, he says, “Keep your fin­gers crossed”.

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