Trustees at JFS have told Governors that the prestigious Jewish secondary school “continues to live beyond its means” after agreeing to a bail-out amid talk during lockdown of cutting both subjects and staff.
The comments were made in a budget meeting in April and revealed in the minutes, published following a Freedom of Information request, and show the school considering “significantly reducing staff costs”.
John Cooper, chairman of the school’s finance and premises committee, told fellow Governors that the pandemic was expected to lead to less voluntary contributions (VCs), with funds typically raised from events also drying up.
“Unless there were a corresponding drop in expenditure, the difference would have to be made up by the Trust,” the minutes read.
“The Trustees had reluctantly agreed to this but noted that this would mean a reduction of at least 50 percent in the value of their investments, thus preventing any further grants on this scale in the future. They had pointed out that the School continued to live beyond its means.”
Efforts to fill the contributions gap were listed, such as grandparent teas and a sponsored calendar, but Cooper’s warning was stark.
“Grants from charitable trusts and major donors were often restricted to capital expenditure, so JFS must either increase regular revenue fundraising or significantly reduce its staff costs,” the minutes record.
“If all parents paid the full VC there would be no problem. Since, despite renewed efforts, matters were not improving, a whole range of actions on the fundraising front… should follow.”
In the meeting, Governors acknowledged that voluntary contributions at JFS were “amongst the lowest of all Jewish secondary schools”, but Cooper argued that “with the financial hardship that would accompany the current crisis, now would be a particularly bad time to ask people to pay more”.
The minutes added that “on the other hand, there would be a financially unaffected minority who could afford to pay significantly more and might do so if the nature of the crisis was explained to them… It was necessary to be brutally honesty with the community about the financial situation”.
JFS trustees were asked for a major grant several years ago and this was “so large that School had to undertake a painful cost-cutting exercise,” but Governors heard that “the benefits were short lived as salary and major pension cost increases had taken effect”.
They added that JFS was “a state-funded school that offered a very wide curriculum,” saying: “In these circumstances, and in the absence of significant fundraising, the only way of avoiding a deficit would be to reduce the number of subjects offered and the associated staff.”