PaJeS has called on parents whose children secured a place in a Jewish secondary school not to hog waiting lists at the expense of other pupils.
“The biggest problem in the process is that parents who have already been offered and accepted a place in one Jewish school insist on remaining on the waiting list for a different school,” the umbrella body for Jewish education said on Wednesday.
“This means that if a school creates additional spaces it is not possible to ensure that those places are offered to children currently without a place in any Jewish school,” it warned.
PaJeS made the demand in response to a letter from eight families with children who do not currently hold a Jewish secondary school place for September.
The families, who came together through the Oversubscribed London Jewish Secondary Schools Facebook group, demanded an urgent review of the allocation system.
A letter issued by the group on Tuesday said: “The existing admission arrangements mean that children who already have places at a Jewish school are being allowed to remain on the waiting lists of other Jewish schools, even though our children have still not been allocated a Jewish school. As a result, some waiting lists hold the names of over 100 children. This means that when a place becomes available, our odds of receiving an offer remain incredibly low. Some children have received two or even three offers from a Jewish school while we have yet to receive any.”
It later read: “As a result of this situation, our children’s mental health is suffering. They are under terrible emotional strain, with increased levels of anxiety. After 14 weeks of being home-schooled, their mental wellbeing is already fragile and this uncertainty is making it worse. They don’t understand why they can’t go to the same Jewish schools as their classmates. They are becoming withdrawn and anxious, prone to panic attacks, unable to sleep at night, and being left out of WhatsApp groups that their peers are creating based on the school they will be attending.”
The letter makes several suggestions, including that a “communal body” take over the allocation system, that schools coordinate waiting lists and that an additional place be created across all Year 7 classes at JCoSS, JFS and Yavneh College.
PaJeS expressed sympathy for the group’s concerns but described some of their solutions as impractical. “For Year 7 admissions the process is not managed by the schools but by the local authorities,” the body explained.
“For the schools in question there are three different local authorities managing the process. It is against the law for the schools to collaborate on admissions and it would be illegal for any communal organisation to interfere or try to oversee the process,” it added.
In their response, PaJeS told of an “unexpected increase” in the number of parents seeking places in Jewish schools within north west London, citing economic pressures linked to the coronavirus as a possible factor for the rise in applications to the state sector.
“The schools have in fact made an enormous effort to accept as many students as possible. Looking at the Hasmonean Schools, Immanuel College, JCOSS, JFS, and Yavneh College this year there are almost 1,000 students wanting places and approximately 99% have been successful,” it said.
“For the 1% still waiting for places there is no doubt that the wait is painful and parents may feel that very little has been done to help. However, this is far from the reality. In fact across the state schools, over 60 additional places have been created and offered to anxious families,” it added.
JFS announced last month its plans to create a Year 7 bulge class in the autumn amid a “significant surge” in applications for Jewish secondary schools.