Record number of pupils attend Jewish schools

Record number of pupils attend Jewish schools

Latest research reveals more than 30,000 Jewish pupils – two thirds of all Jewish children in the country – are now educated within the community.

A level students celebrate their results
A level students celebrate their results

The number of Jewish children at schools in the community has increased fivefold over two generations, despite the population shrinking by a quarter during this time, new figures published today reveal.

A report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) shows there are now more than 30,000 attending a Jewish school in Britain – representing two-thirds of all Jewish children in the country.

Just 40 years ago, one-fifth attended a Jewish school.

Jonathan Boyd, co-author of the report and JPR director, said the growth of the British-Jewish school sector over time had been “nothing short of extraordinary,” adding: “The reasons why it has happened need to be much better understood.”

Since the 1950s, the number of Jewish pupils in Jewish schools has increased by 500 percent, with a 25 percent increase seen over the past decade alone. During this time, the number of Jewish schools has risen from just 26 to 139 by 2014, an increase of 400 percent, which Boyd said was “no less spectacular”.

Fuelling the explosive growth has been the burgeoning Charedi communities in London, Manchester and Gateshead, with the number of strictly-Orthodox children attending Jewish schools in Manchester tripling in just 20 years. This means that the city has now increased its share of Charedi pupils from one in five to one in four of the total.

Of the 30,900 Jewish children studying in Jewish schools, 40 percent attended mainstream (i.e. Modern Orthodox, pluralist or progressive) establishments, whereas 60 percent studied in 97 strictly-Orthodox institutions across the country, meaning Charedi students now make up the clear majority of all UK Jewish schoolchildren.

Almost all strictly-Orthodox schools are run independent of state funding, and an estimated 1,400 Orthodox boys aged 11 to 15 are being educated in yeshivot [religious seminaries], according to the report. These students also fall outside government census data.

Authors Daniel Staetsky and Jonathan Boyd said that while strictly-Orthodox children “universally” attend Jewish schools, only 43 percent of Jewish children from the mainstream Jewish community do, and that Jewish pupil enrolment in mainstream Jewish schools outside London has declined by a quarter over the past 20 years.

The findings will have policy implications. “More schools and more pupils mean that more teachers need to be recruited, trained and retained,” Boyd said. “Both quality and quantity are paramount if these schools are to flourish.”

Board of Deputies’ chief executive Gillian Merron said the demand was “a huge and well-earned vote of confidence” in Jewish schools.

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