Nearly six in ten Jewish children studying in Jewish schools in the UK are now strictly Orthodox, a new survey has shown, but researchers say the true figure is likely to be far higher.
The findings flow from data gathered by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) in a report published this week.
Commissioned by the Board of Deputies, the statistical bulletin by JPR director Dr Jonathan Boyd showed that there are now 34,547 Jewish children at Jewish schools, with 58 percent now attending Charedi schools. Less than 15 years ago, there was a 50:50 split.
Addressing the near 60:40 split seen today, Boyd said: “The disparity is even greater than this, as a significant number of Charedi teenagers are known to be studying in yeshivot (religious schools) that are not included in Department for Education figures.”
He said enrolment in strictly Orthodox schools had increased “dramatically” with 12,000 more Charedi children studying in Jewish schools today than were in the mid-1990s – an increase of 166 percent over a generation.
JPR’s statistical bulletin also looked at growth rates from as recently as 2014-15 and found 3,633 more children in Jewish schools in 2017-18 than three years earlier, an 11.8 percent increase. Boyd said this equated to annual growth rates of roughly 4.3 percent for the strictly Orthodox and 3.1 percent in the mainstream sector.
The study also showed that 85 percent of Jewish children studying in Jewish schools now do so in or near London, compared to 70 percent in the mid-1990s, meaning “the London/regional balance is clearly shifting over time in favour of London”.
However, more than one in four Charedi children now study at Jewish schools in Manchester, compared to less than one in five studying there in the mid-1990s, meaning that there is actually a slow shift northwards for the strictly Orthodox.
There are 79 strictly Orthodox schools in the UK, and while most are in London, 23 are in the north-west, seven in Gateshead and one in Leeds. Of those in the north-west, most are in Salford. By contrast, there are only 42 mainstream Jewish schools, including two in Liverpool, two in Leeds, one in Birmingham and one in Scotland.
Policy-makers welcomed the findings, which continue the upward trend seen since the 1950s, when far more Jewish children attended non-Jewish schools, and Boyd said the latest figures evidenced demographic growth in the Charedi community and a community-wide increase in numbers preferring Jewish schooling.
“Monitoring both is important to ensure we maintain an up-to-date perspective on how our community is evolving, and to stay clear-sighted about future challenges and opportunities,” he said.
Board of Deputies’ vice-president Edwin Shuker added that the continued increase in the number of children attending Jewish schools was “welcome” and that the data would help medium- and long-term planning.
“Having strong educational institutions has long been a key part of what it means to be Jewish,” he said. “We continue to be proud of our Jewish schools’ strong academic performances and their commitment to nurturing our youth.”