Do we need to pay more to keep our schools go­ing ?

The Jewish Chronicle - - EDUCATION - BY SI­MON ROCKER

JFS MAY not be the only Jewish­school hav­ing to con­sider cut­ting staff. Oth­ers could be forced down the same track be­cause of a squeeze on fi­nances.

While the govern­ment was an­nounc­ing money for new schools in this week’s Bud­get, in the mean­time it is plan­ning to in­tro­duce a new for­mula for al­lo­cat­ing grants to ex­ist­ing state-aided schools

And Jewish schools seem des­tined to lose out. When I looked at the im­pact of the fund­ing change on 25 Jewish state schools, based on fig­ures pub­lished by the govern­ment, only two are set to gain. The rest, in­clud­ing JFS, will have to brace them­selves for a drop in in­come.

There is no ques­tion of Jewish schools, or faith schools in general, be­ing tar­geted as such.

What is hap­pen­ing is that un­der the new for­mula, more money will be shifted to­wards dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren — and Jewish schools gen­er­ally have fewer than av­er­age of them.

The govern­ment says it is try­ing to ease the pain by not phas­ing in the new ar­range­ments un­til the 2018/19 year and by ini­tially cap­ping any re­duc­tion at 1.5 per cent.

If you take JFS, for ex­am­ple, the pro­jected fall would be around £85,000 in a bud­get of just over £8 mil­lion – which might not seem so large. But then schools have al­ready had to cope with ris­ing costs with­out a cor­re­spond­ing in­crease in in­come.

Ac­cord­ing to some pro­jec­tions, the over­all drop in fund­ing per pupil across the board from 2014/15 to 2019/20 could reach eight per cent in real terms.

A num­ber of Jewish schools, in­clud­ing JFS, are also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing what Susy Stone, head­teacher of Akiva Pri­mary School, calls a “dou­ble whammy”. Whereas schools could claim tax re­lief on vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions from par­ents to­wards Jewish stud­ies through Gift Aid, the Rev­enue has now mostly put an end to that.

So al­though the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil’s ed­u­ca­tion di­vi­sion, Part­ner­ships for Jewish Schools, has been try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a re­turn to the sta­tus quo, schools have been hit by a se­ri­ous loss of money.

JFS ex­ec­u­tive head Deb­o­rah Lip­kin gave par­ents as­sur­ances last week that the pro­posed cuts would “not have an im­pact on class­room teach­ing”, but said ac­tion had to be taken swiftly be­cause of “changes to ex­ter­nal fund­ing and in­creased costs across the pub­lic sec­tor”.

Ac­cord­ing to a JFS source, up to 15 ad­min­is­tra­tion posts may go but the loss of teach­ing jobs would not be more than “single” fig­ures. Fewer teach­ers are needed for some sub­jects in the six­th­form be­cause stu­dents no longer take an A-S level in ad­di­tion to their As.

Jewish schools may be able to save money through closer col­lab­o­ra­tion, par­tic­u­larly over ad­min­is­tra­tion. Ex­pect to see more schools join­ing in con­sor­tia rather than op­er­at­ing on their own..

But the JFS ex­pe­ri­ence throws out a chal­lenge. If we want our schools to main­tain their stan­dards of ex­cel­lence, we may have to pay more for that. And should the bur­den fall sim­ply on par­ents – or should more of our char­i­ta­ble re­sources be switched to ed­u­ca­tion?

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