Sunday, 10 October 2010

Cuts could cause Jewish influx into Hackney state schools?

Hackney's largest and fastest growing ethnic minority - its ultra orthodox Jewish community - is mainly self-catering when it comes to education. Most ultra orthodox Jewish children are educated in private schools.

But could this be about to change if, as expected, various government cuts hit this community hardest? (Effects of housing benefit cuts discussed here while East London Lines describes possible effects of child benefit cuts) When compared to neighbouring boroughs like Tower Hamlets, where the largest minority relies on state education, has Hackney got-off lightly?

These broader issues appeared during discussions about an admissions dispute at Hackney's only state-funded Jewish secondary school: the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School. The school had 231 pupils aged 11-16 when its most recent (July 201) Ofsted Report (an interim check) in which it retained its 'outstanding' rating.

In contrast to Hackney's silent Academies - Mossbourne and Petchey - Yesodey Hatorah spokesman, Abraham Pinter, provided some background during a telephone conversation. The bulk of his replies were consistent with answers officially provided by the Learning Trust (I've noted any differences in the answers).

The exchange below also includes some comments from Jewish historian and columnist on Jewish matters for the Jewish Chronicle and the Guardian, Geoffrey Alderman, who is involved in the dispute and pointed it out to Blood and Property.

The bulk of the answers come from the Learning Trust.

Blood and Property: I've been told that some parents who applied for their daughters to go to the school were originally denied but were then accepted after an appeal process. Were you aware of this?

Learning Trust: Yes

Blood and Property: If so, is it possible to get any details about these cases what the issues were?

Learning Trust: We are not able to discuss individual cases involving students. Yesodah Hatorah is an oversubscribed school. In line with other schools they follow the Learning Trust co-ordinated admissions process. (Abraham Pinter said that not all the schools places were full)

Blood and Property: Do you know of any complaints about the admissions process at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls school? Are they more common than in other Hackney schools.

Learning Trust: The school has told us that there had been one complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman which was later withdrawn following an unsuccessful appeal.

Blood and Property: When parents appeal against the decisions of the board of governors at Hackney secondary schools is there a higher body/regulator that can judge whether a governing body is behaving properly? If so has it recently been at work at Yesodey Hatorah school?

Learning Trust: There is a statutory process for appeal. The Headteacher, followed by the Chair of Governors and finally the Secretary of State

Blood and Property: Have you had any complaints from parents about nepotism or factionalism within a school's governing body. If parents have these concerns, to whom should they present evidence, the Learning Trust? The Charity Commission? The council?

Learning Trust: There have been no complaints from named parents. The process for complaints are outlined above.

Geoffrey Alderman: I have a copy of a letter sent to the chief executive of the Learning Trust on 27 June 2010, to which there was a reply by email dated 27 July 2010.

Blood and Property: I've been told there have been difficulties in identifying who the governors of the school actually are. Should there be a formal route by which parents or any member of the community can can contact the school's governors? Or at least check that they exist?

Learning Trust: All requests for information are directed to the school This reply is unacceptable.

Geoffrey Alderman: Surely the Learning Trust knows the names of the members of the governing body. If not, how can it satisfy itself as to the appropriate governance of the school?

Blood and Property: Is the learning trust confident that there is a complete and effective governing body at the school?

Learning Trust: At the last Ofsted the school was judged outstanding. This has been achieved under the leadership of the head and the Governing body, the hard work of its teaching staff and students as well as the support of parents

Geoffrey Alderman: As a matter of fact the Ofsted inspection itself drew attention to shortcomings in the governance of the school. So this reply is being very economical with the truth. (The 2006 Ofted report gave the school's governing body a score of 3 the lowest of all its other scores got higher rated scores of 1 or 2)

Blood and Property: Is the Learning Trust aware of any investigations into admissions at the school?

Learning Trust: No


  1. I wonder if you could provide a link to evidence your statement that "Hackney's largest and fastest growing ethnic minority" is "its ultra orthodox Jewish community"?

    I can't find the stats online.

    Many thanks!

  2. I thought it was obvious but a closer look says it isn't - so it may be wrong. What I thought would be the most comprehensive explanation of the situation is a 2002 report looking specifically at this population. The report said the community made up 9-11% of Hackney population - but that this would have doubled by 2011 (next year). The document is on the Hackney gov website:

    This is the summary - but other figures on the Hackney website are much more conservative showing black Africans as the largest and fastest growing community:

    Summary of the 2002 report

    The average family size is 5.9 compared to 2.5 in LB Hackney and 2.4 in England and Wales.The kehilla is growing by 8% per year, has doubled since 1989 and will, if present rates are maintained, double again by 2011. 84% of households have at least one resident child aged 15 years or younger. 53% of families have four or more resident children under 16 years old. 55.5% of the sample is less than 16 years old. 2.4% of the sample is over 60 years old.
    95% of people over 25 years old are married.
    22% of adults are in full time work, 22% have part time work and 20% are still in full time education.
    The kehilla represents between 9 and 11% of the total population of LB Hackney. Children of the kehilla under 16 years of age represent between 21 and 26% of the child population of LB Hackney.