Jewish peer Lord Polak has urged the Government to learn from Jewish free schools’ mutual support network and to understand that schools can be deemed both special needs and faith-based.
Lord Stuart Polak, an honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel and chair of trustees at the newly-created Lubavitch Multi-Academy Trust, cited Jewish schools as an example during a House of Lords debate on free schools on Thursday.
“One extremely positive initiative has been where free schools have joined together and created a network to give each other mutual support, and expanded into developmental school improvement and continued professional development for staff,” he said, suggesting Ministers “see whether this kind of cooperation can be replicated elsewhere”.
In his address, Polak paid tribute to Yavneh College in Borehamwood, Etz Chaim Primary School in Barnet, and Kisharon’s special educational needs school, which he described as “a jewel in the crown” of the Jewish community.
Kisharon is building a state-of-the-art campus, increasing its capacity from 40 students to 72, and Polak said arrangements between the Department for Education and the charity had “driven up educational standards and improved the facilities for learning disabilities”.
He added: “Becoming a free school has facilitated the opportunity to create specific expert learning zones for children with autism and other multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.
“As things stand, a special school cannot be a special and faith school… The experience of Kisharon rather proves that this is not only possible but desirable.”