Crisis in Jewish Primary Schools – Where have all the Headteachers gone?

Crisis in Jewish Primary Schools – Where have all the Headteachers gone?

Did you know that there are currently six Jewish Primary Schools in the UK without a substantive Headteacher running their schools? You may ask, where have all the leaders gone? Is the Jewish Primary education sector facing a silent crisis?

The Headteacher, the Leader of the school establishes or at the very least is responsible for implementing the vision of the Governing Body of the School. Without a Headteacher, there is no vision.

“As the leader, so the generation; as the generation, so the leader.”

(Talmud Yerushalmi) Arachim 17a

If our schools don’t have strong leaders, it is the generation we teach that suffers.

The recruitment and retention of good quality staff is a key challenge for any school leader and the recruitment of leaders themselves is possibly the most important issue for schools and their governing bodies

This predicament is not a challenge restricted to the Jewish Education Sector. Across the country, all Faith schools appear to face particular difficulties in this respect.

In “Leadership and faith schools: issues and challenges” published by the National College for School Leadership in 2012, it noted that…

“re-advertisement rates for Headteacher vacancies were markedly higher in Church of England and Catholic schools than their maintained counterparts (42 per cent and 51 per cent respectively, compared to 38 per cent for all primary schools and 24 per cent for all secondary schools for the same period).”

Faith schools face more difficulties and dilemmas than other schools when recruiting school leaders. The Governing Body has to determine how important it is that the successful candidate is an actively practising member of their faith, measured and balanced against the skills and quality of the applicant. On the one hand, the ethos and ‘vision’ of the school often are significantly influenced by the Headteacher’s beliefs and ideally should reflect the school’s ethos but, restricting the pool to just the Jewish Community risks limiting the quality and experience of the staff.

I believe that the difficulty facing these schools in finding adequately experienced and qualified leaders for these schools is further compounded by the recent proliferation of new Jewish Primary schools. New schools seem to pop up on an almost termly basis, but there seems to be very little regard for the drain that this places on an already shallow pool of Leadership. In the last two years alone, four new schools were opened and all were built within a two-mile radius of several other pre-existing Jewish Schools. There seems to be no organisation or body who is taking responsibility for managing or overseeing this expansion and those looking to do so, in fact,  have the Government’s blessing.  There seems to be negligible differences in the espoused philosophies of the new schools versus the established schools and thus beggars the question, was it entirely needed?The recent report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research on Jews in the United Kingdom acknowledges that the demand for Jewish Schools amongst the non-orthodox members of our community is shrinking year on year, yet the trend of opening new schools seems unabated.

Aside from the dilution of philanthropic community funds available to existing educational establishments, which is of itself of grave concern, the needless replication of experienced leadership in new schools is clearly adversely affecting the ability of existing schools to continue to provide a quality education. It is a very real issue for these six schools currently without the guidance or leadership of a permanent Headteacher.

The new Government with its savage cuts to the education sector, has drastically reduced the influence and support of the Local Authorities available for  schools. The only viable solution is for Jewish schools is to work together and pool their resources, funding and skills in order to identify, nurture and develop aspiring and future leaders.   Jewish primary schools must put to one side the subtle differences in their placement along the religious spectrum and unite under a unified and powerful collective to ensure that the current void in succession planning for the future leaders of our schools is filled.

Who is responsible for protecting the future Leadership of our Jewish Schools and of our children’s education?

We are.

See LJN article.

This blog on the LJN website


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