Parents have been left in limbo this week after two more Jewish primary schools were forced to change their entry rules with immediate effect, writes Caron Kemp.
Until now, children attending the nursery at Edgware’s Rosh Pinah Primary School and Mathilda Marks Kennedy School in Mill Hill, were given priority entry for the following reception year.
But in line with a growing trend – which has in recent years seen Clore Shalom, Hertsmere Jewish Primary and the Independent Jewish Day School also forced to change their admissions policy – the Barnet schools have been instructed to likewise amend theirs.
The ruling, from the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, which regulates school admissions, follows complaints by members of the public.
But the news has come as a bitter blow for many parents of Rosh Pinah nursery pupils who were accepted to the Glengall Road school on a lottery system of entry previously in place.
The long-established criteria saw 40 per cent of available places at nursery level each year, allocated randomly to children living outside a one mile zone of the school.
Concern is now rife that children from surrounding neighbourhoods will be forced to leave the school at the end of this academic year, if the newly amended criteria does not feature a similar system of entry.
One Borehamwood parent, whose son is amongst the 60 children currently attending the nursery, is devastated by the news.
“Our once shy son has flourished at Rosh Pinah and the thought of potentially having to leave friends and his security behind, as well as a school we have come to love, is heart-breaking,” she explains.
“I appreciate the OSA’s decision, but it is totally unfair that current pupils have been caught up in something that can surely wait until the following year when parents can make informed decisions. Instead, as a consequence of this ruling, we could feasibly be left without a place at a Jewish school altogether despite our good intentions.”
Following a letter to parents last week, Rosh Pinah Chair of Governors Andrew Rotenberg has called a meeting with the parents of those nursery children who will be affected by the decision, to discuss the situation.
“We are obviously very disappointed with the decision of the OSA and their refusal to listen to our plea to delay implementation until 2016,” he says.
“On a personal note, I understand that this must be a very anxious time for some of our nursery parents and it is important that they have the opportunity to participate in the discussion about the options available to us. However, I would point out that we still expect the overwhelming majority of our nursery children to progress through our main school despite the forced change to our admissions criteria.”
Mr Rotenberg stressed that those with siblings already at the main school will be unaffected by the ruling.
Pupils at MMK will likely be less affected by the ruling as admissions criteria has always been location-based.
“We are looking carefully at the decision and will consider what next steps we need to take in relation to our admissions arrangements,” Headteacher Jillian Dunstan says.
However, following an OSA decision, the only available legal challenge is a costly judicial review, and as Simon Goulden, from the Partnership for Jewish Schools remarks in a recent blog, talking about Clore Shalom’s battle: “That view could undoubtedly have been challenged as a matter of law with some likelihood of success but, understandably, the school was not willing to take the risk or incur the costs involved.
“Other schools faced with a similar decision have taken the same view, with the result that OSA has remained unchallenged. Indeed, with the costs of a judicial review case becoming eye watering, which school could seek to take that route?”