Rosh Pinah Primary School this week denied it had outsourced its leadership after taking the “trailblazing” decision to hire a private limited company to lead the school for the next three years, writes Stephen Oryszczuk.
The Edgware institution said the firm, which specialises in turning round failing schools, would have a “transformative effect” after announcing a new headteacher, executive head and associate executive head.
The company, Lilac Sky Schools Ltd, would push the school to achieve an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted and Pikuach rating in two to three years, said school leaders. Rosh Pinah is rated as ‘good’ overall.
The move comes after the primary school hit the headlines last year, when former headteacher Anthony Wolfson mysteriously resigned with immediate effect, offering no explanation.
A subsequent series of spats between governors, teachers and parents led to calls for governors to step down.
Andrew Rotenberg, the new chair of governors, said that was now in the past as he revealed Lilac Sky had “a proven track record of success”.
“Lilac Sky is a leading provider of educational services and an approved Academy sponsor,” he wrote in a letter to parents. “It will secure the long-term stability and future of the school.”
The school’s interim headteacher Alison Flegg, whose work Rotenberg praised, will step down at the end of this academic year, with the incoming executive taking over from June on a three-year commercial contract.
Rotenberg said the agreement had been structured to allow the school to retain “maximum control” and denied claims it had “outsourced” its leadership.
However, he did recognise this was “a first” for Jewish education, coming on the back of a heated debate between senior school leaders who have, in recent months, flagged up “a leadership crisis” in the sector.
Rosh Pinah’s choice of private provider, which follows an extensive period of due diligence, was supported by education experts at Barnet Council, who sat on the interview panels, and the school’s foundation body Scopus.
By Wednesday, parents had begun giving their first reactions to the letter. One father, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I welcome it if it provides stability and improves standards.”
He agreed it was, to some extent, a “leap of faith” but added: “Companies outsource to experts all the time, so why should this be any different? I’m not concerned these three new senior people are not Jewish, because there is a support structure there. My only concern would be to ask what if it didn’t work out – what’s Plan B?”
Although none of the three new executives are Jewish, the new associate executive headteacher, Matthew Slater, worked at Yavneh College as deputy to the late Dena Colman.
While the company has worked with dozens of schools, this is the first time Lilac has been parachuted into a Jewish school, which caused Jewish education specialists to sound a note of caution. “The risk is to ensure sufficient understanding of the subtleties of Jewish education,” said Alistair Falk, director of Partnerships for Jewish Schools.
Rotenberg said: “With a renovated building almost complete and with Rabbi Spector joining us from September, we are confident we are well on our way to becoming a truly outstanding school.”