Many parents were left facing an anxious wait this week after their children were refused places at Jewish state schools.
Pupils graduating from primary schools this summer now face being denied a place at a Jewish secondary school from September – with experts warning that pressure on existing places could grow further.
Following national offer day on Tuesday, Marie van der Zyl, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, was left “shocked” after her daughter was refused places at three state schools – JFS, JCoSS and Yavneh College.
Speaking in a private capacity, she said: “Shifting demographics need to be dealt with head-on. I live in Mill Hill, with a huge Jewish population, yet I’m one of many parents being refused places, So it’s not about not being in a Jewish area.”
She added: “You end up in a fight with other Jewish parents for a place. That’s a horrendous position. We shouldn’t have to do that. Every child who wants a Jewish secondary education should be able to have one. This is a huge issue. We need to re-evaluate supply and demand and involve philanthropists and the best brains in the community.”
A spokeswoman from Partnerships for Jewish Schools (PaJeS), the division of the Jewish Leadership Council responsible for overseeing Jewish education in the UK, advised parents to “be patient”. She added: “After places have been offered there is always some movement. Some families decide to go to private schools or move away, freeing up places. This place will then be offered to the next child on the waiting list. Often this in turn will open up a space at a second school. As a result of all this shuffling, it is quite common for a significant number of places to become available at each secondary school. We would therefore advise parents to be patient at this stage.”
PaJeS is currently working with Barnet Council to develop proposals to increase provision in the borough, which is home to the UK’s largest Jewish population.
Last month plans were unveiled for a new Jewish secondary school in Barnet – to be known as Kedem High – which could open in the borough next year.
Rabbi David Meyer, executive director of PaJeS, said: “We’re reviewing admissions trends at secondary level, but initial studies suggest that the number of students seeking Jewish secondary places is roughly steady,” adding that there were about 1,000 Jewish students applying and about 1,000 places.
“The issue is geography, where these schools are. For example, King Solomon [in Barkingside] has places, but that’s not particularly useful for a family in Edgware. I don’t think a new school like Kedem resolves the problem, because we’re still not talking about significant numbers of students. That’s why we’re reviewing what we’ll need beyond 2018/9.”
While he has said 98 percent of youngsters ended up with a place, Rabbi Meyer acknowledged some remained without “due to a quirk of the geographical location of their home, or failure to win the admissions lottery”.
In Hertfordshire, Yavneh College received 541 applications and offered places to 150 students. JFS in Brent offers 300 places in Year 7, JCoSS in Barnet 180 and King Solomon High in Essex 60. Most schools did not reveal the number of applications. While most families were notified of places on Tuesday, there was still confusion by Wednesday morning, as Barnet parents calling for information were informed that “27,000 [notification] emails are stuck” because of problems.
Barnet council told Jewish News: “We’re developing proposals to meet the demand.”