Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

פתחו שערים – Open the Gates

Yesodey Hatorah Application Pack - Year Beginning Sep 2015

This website is proud to present for the 2nd year running a tri-lingual Information Pack which includes a step-by-step guide and FAQs on applying for admission to Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School.

For once I should and will shut up about my pet peeve. I wouldn’t really be doing my cause a favour if I slagged off the school while trying to promote it. So for today I will do no more than remind you that this is a school that has recently been judged by Ofsted to be Good and which comes after a rating of Outstanding that lasted for over 8 years.

If you have decided that this is the school you want for your daughter then follow the instructions and she should be offered a place. Don’t believe whatever you’re told about getting your child in and don’t be deterred by whatever obstacles are put in your way.

The School has 80 places to offer and year after year is heavily undersubscribed. So if you are frum and live in the Stamford Hill area and you want your daughter to attend Yesodey Hatorah then you should almost certainly be able to get her in. It is your right and so long that you go about it correctly you will find that despite their formidable appearance those gates are actually scaled quite easily.

The deadline is very soon, 31 October, so don’t delay and get your application in at once.

Best of Luck!

Friday, 19 September 2014

How the Pinter got its Head

Weinberg YHS Appointment, Minutes

Having dealt extensively with the anointment of Rivky Weinberg (née Pinter) as Headteacher of Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School it is time to take a closer look at the formalities the school adopted for the process. Famous for its adherence to the letter and spirit of the law, it was a certainty from the start that YHS's selection and anointment process would be entirely above board. But to scotch any doubt we now have the minutes of the meetings of the governing body relating to the appointment (above) to prove the point.

To save you wading through the deliberations, and having to follow Pinter as he moves in and out of the meeting, let me summarise for you the proceedings in what I hope will be a few brief paragraphs.

Mrs Pinter passed away on 12 March of this year and on 18 March 2014 the Governing Body headed by the Adath Burial Society trustee, Tony Bibleman, met to consider the appointment of a new Headteacher. At this very early stage they're already talking of advertising for a replacement 'worldwide', presumably because having interred so many bodies the Chair knows all too well what a rotten crop of educators London has to offer. The Governors are also very concerned about the advert being drafted in accordance with the 'hushcoffa' (sic) of the school. (Making a hush about the coffers is a rather sad pun so let's drop that one.)

Who ever knew that there existed hashkofes on job adverts but thanks to Yesodey Hatorah we are enlightened. We now know that while a hashkofe-compliant ad requires no mention of qualifications or experience as a prerequisite for the job, repeated mention of the former headteacher with a Pinter surname is a must.

A governor also suggested the need for the new Head to be proficient in Yiddish despite the fact that Yiddish is rarely if ever heard in the classrooms of that school. Since the need for Yiddish didn't make it through to the adverts we must take it that the school's lawyers vetoed that one. Nice try, though, and a shame too as it would have narrowed the field even further.

Adverts are duly published around the end of April in the Hamodia and Jewish Tribune and on 13 May 2014 the Governing Body chaired by the Undertaker convenes again. The governors are at a loss that the advert has produced only a 'handful of enquiries' and so they come up with a wheeze: include a photo of the school. Show the world the fortress and gates which are so good at keeping out undesirables and applicants will come flocking in their droves. No one as much as mentions that tinkering with the text of the advert might increase interest, assuming that was their aim, and instead it is proposed -and seconded- that the Undertaker and the Acting Head would put their heads together to find a hashkofe-compliant photograph for the ad. What a relief.

There was another slight problem, as the clerk pointed out, that a Headteacher for a maintained school must be qualified and preferably hold the NPQH. Once again the Undertaker comes to the rescue. Could she not be trained up, he ponders aloud. L'man Hashem, don't mention any such requirements in the advert, it's only a photo that the wretched ad needs and the qualification will follow after. (It now turns out that Weinberg (née Pinter), who is not qualified, has undertaken to acquire the necessary qualifications, which just goes to show how prescient a Chair the Undertaker is. I too am thinking of applying to fill the empty chair on the UOHC Rabbinate on the basis that I’ll 'train up' later.)

But hang on there, there is a far greater problem and which could lead to a serious breach of the peace. In a hitherto unheard of spontaneous outbreak of Pinter fervour 'well over 60 parents' wrote to the Chair/Undertaker demanding Mrs Weinberg as Head Teacher.

I urge you to stop here and pause for a moment. The school has barely started advertising for a new Head, at this stage there has been no mention whatsoever of the appointment process to parents, let alone proposing to them a choice of candidates, and their views have not been canvassed in any shape or form. Yet out of the blue not half a dozen, not two dozen, but well over 60 parents are writing unsolicited letters urging the school to appoint an inexperienced and unqualified candidate who’s been living aboroad for the last decade or so and who just happens to be Pinter's daughter. I have always been an an admirer and an avid reader of Weinberg’s peerless column and I have never harboured any doubt about her remarkable abilities but still this clamour for her Headship has left me flummoxed.

Naturally, and perfectly in line with the famed humility of her family, Weinberg didn't even want the job and 'would not apply.' However, if you took the trouble to ask her, and as an absolute b'dieved, and maybe if you threw in £90,000 per annum and, between you and me, some relocation costs she might just consider the position. Assuming of course that the stains on the wallpaper have all come out by then and the carpet has covered up all that unsightly rot so that she can clear her previous desk.

And so in order to keep the mob from storming the bastille and install their desired candidate, Pinter himself, aka daddy to Wienberg, reluctantly agreed to 'be involved in briefing prospective candidates.' A perfectly logical decision since as we've just heard, Weinberg didn't really want the job anyway.

This, my friends, is how we come to the further meeting of 17 June 2014 when the Head of Hackney Learning Trust (HLT), Tricia Okoruwa and Head of Secondary Schools at HLT, Martin Buck, come along to rubber stamp the process that will in due course confirm Weinberg's anointment. Pinter was not present when the selection committee was formed and with a Governing Body to do his bidding he could well afford to take a break. And avoid any conflict of interest, of course.

Anyway, returning to the meeting, fine words were exchanged, the Undertaker lamented that they had only 2 applications and Mr Buck told the governors that 3 adverts 'demonstrated that they were serious about making an appointment for the best candidate and were not just looking on the doorstep of the school.' As if to prove that point Weinberg/Pinter was duly imported from some 2000 miles away. Even a cynic like me can't call that on the doorstep, can I?

As to where the Buck stops (sorry, but another bad pun) 'Mrs Okowuro (sic) and Mr Buck left the meeting and Rabbi Pinter returned.'

It hardly needs repeating that Weinberg (née Pinter) was duly appointed and let us reflect on the size of the fish-head Weinberg consumed last year Rosh Hashone and over which she sniffled the Yehi Rotzoin to become a Head and not a household tipster. Her prayers have boruch hashem not gone astray and as we say in Yiddish, when a fish stinks it stinks from the very Head. And occasionally from the Principal too.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

How to Hijack a School…

…as taught at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School

To those of you who have not yet heard, and that assumes that you read neither the Hamodia nor the Jewish Tribune, the voluntary-aided Yesodey Hatorah Senior School (YHS) has just appointed a new head teacher. She goes by Rivky Weinberg, but don't be fooled by her surname. Her maiden name was Pinter, daughter of Avrohom/Abraham Pinter, and that is the story that concerns us here.

This appointment is rotten at so many levels, so brazenly bent, so beggaring belief, so cynically contemptuous of staff, parents, pupils and the entire community, so disregardful of any modicum of propriety that it is difficult to know even where to start. But start we must and as the mishna teaches us, it’s not your job to complete the task but that isn't an excuse not to have a go.

Head teacher age

Let us begin with what is certain about Weinberg, which is her age. Wienberg is 33 years old and this makes her one of the youngest head teachers in the UK. In fact, as the table above shows (see Table 4), she may well be the very youngest head teacher in England!

So what are those exceptional qualities that have earned her this appointment at such a young and tender age? And what is so unique about her that she had to be brought over from Israel after a search that apparently spanned more than half the globe? Well, if we know little of her supposed experience it is not for lack of opportunity. Unlike other head-teacher appointments to frum schools up and down the country, Hamodia saw fit to dedicate a third of a page to this appointment but mentioned not a single qualification. It talks about her 'wealth of relevant experience' but remains vague on the details. Likewise, a letter was posted to parents notifying them of the appointment but with a similar lack of detail.

Another certainty is that she has little recent teaching experience in this country because she has been living abroad for the last few years. As far as anyone can remember, when she was living here about 10 years ago she worked at the Hamodia where daddy of course is an 'adviser' and which explains the hyperbolic announcement of her appointment. The grapevine further suggests that until very recently she's been the co-author of the popular Hamodia household-tips column, 'That's an Idea', where she went under the name of R. Vine. Whether advice on how to get chrein stains out of your husband's shirt qualifies one as a head-teacher is anyone's guess but apparently the YHS appointment panel think it does and I am in no position to argue.

So without the years, without apparent qualifications and with some vague experience only, what else might be behind her appointment? I shan't keep you guessing and considering how the vacancy arose may give us some clue. In March of this year the former head teacher of the school, Mrs Gitty (Rachel) Pinter, passed away. She was the wife of the Principal of YHS, Avrohom Pinter, and she was head teacher since about the 1970s when YHS was still a private school. It was following her passing that it fell to the governing body to appoint a new head teacher which they have now done.

And this is the point I am getting to. Rivky Weinberg has been appointed as head teacher for one reason only: because she is lucky enough to be daddy's girl and daddy believes he can get away with it. Her qualification is being her mother's and father's daughter and her experience consists of having them as parents for some 30 odd years. I haven't made this up and the governors have themselves said so. "As a daughter of Mrs Pinter she has a deep understanding of" yada yada yada.

Let me say that I'm prepared to believe that Weinberg's appointment is perfectly within the law. This school that denies its pupils anything from qualified and experienced teachers, a comprehensive curriculum, a broad range of school trips and even school meals, will gladly splash out generously on legal advice whenever its carefully constructed façade of lies and misinformation is under threat. You can therefore rest assured that they've covered themselves from every angle with the best advice that money can buy. But what neither lawyers nor ingeniuous household tips can do is remove the stench and boy does this stink.

YHS head ad, relocation

In the four-and-a-half months of the vacancy there were perhaps only 6 adverts with relatively few details of the job description, they contained no requirements for qualifications and in some of the adverts there was not even mention of experience. The ads repeatedly stated the availability of relocation costs as if it was a foregone conclusion that the candidate will have to be headhunted from abroad, though pinpointed is probably more apt. But if you had any doubt what it was that really mattered, every single advert mentioned the fact that Mrs Pinter had passed away. And if you still were not sure where they expected the candidate to come from, they mentioned a salary of about £90,000 per annum and salaries of that size go to one family only.

What an insult to our entire community. London is simply too intellectually and spiritually impoverished to provide a head-teacher to this academic powerhouse of barely 300 girls which spends almost as much time censoring their books as teaching them. Tens of schools up and down the country, some of them as frum as YHS and frummer, manage with mature local talent who have deservedly earned their positions, but this particular school that denies its pupils anything it does not have to provide will splash out on an unqualified 30-something for this senior post simply because she is a Pinter specimen. What contempt for their long-standing and qualified senior staff that a young nipper of a Pinter with little experience will be lording over them. What callous disregard for the welfare and education of hundreds of girls by appointing a head-teacher with so little to show for. And what rank hypocrisy of its Principal, Pinter himself, who has the effrontery to hold himself out as an authority on education.

This is the Yesodey Hatorah that boasts how it has been educating local children for some 70 years yet only one single family must provide almost all its senior staff. This is a school that spends only 75% of its overall budget, and of that less than half is spent directly on its pupils, yet pays its Pinter staff in the upper level of the bands even while it reduces pupil numbers. This is the school that despite its low numbers requires a full time Principal and Head Teacher and who if they are not husband and wife must be father and daughter.

YHS head ad, 90kAnd they may have a point. Considering that the majority of the teaching staff are gaggling unqualified teenagers who themselves left the school barely a couple of years ago, an unqualified head teacher just slightly older may be a perfect fit. The only difference, however, is that while the unqualified 18-year old GCSE teachers are dumped in front of a class of 16 year olds and paid next to the minimum wage for the honour, the unqualified head has been imported despite having little to declare but yet she will be paid, if the advert is anything to go by, around £90,000 p.a. without ever having to give a class in her lifetime. Because at YHS Principals and Head Teachers are for welcoming VIPs and solemnly roaming the corridors but that little pesky thing known as teaching is way below them.

Mins, Effect of Principal on app of HT

Hiring teenage teachers and discarding of them a couple of years later carries with it other perks too. It assures that there are few staff to aspire to or challenge the ruling family for any of the top jobs. And anyway who would even want to apply with that lot breathing down your neck. At the meeting when Pinter was considered as Principal, and at which a representative of Hackney Learning Trust was present, the problem with a future head-teacher appointment was discussed. And now it has come to pass.

This is how Pinter was eased in as Principal while his late wife was crowned Head, this is how another daughter was parachuted in as Senco and a panoply of daughters, daughters in law and nieces as teachers and now this latest arrival is to be anointed head teacher. That cynicism can stoop to this level requires a fair bit of experience and this she has seen at close quarters in abundance.

Let's not trouble the Chair of Governors in whose name this fiasco is being carried out, a certain Mr Theo Bibelman. As one of the chief communal undertakers he is the perfect candidate for covering up the rotting carcass he presides over. But let's spare the poor man for the moment as he recuperates from a search for a head teacher that 'stretched across three continents'. No doubt that was Africa, South America and Oceania and even there he must have lost his spectacles if all he could find for the job is a former authority on how to remove chometz crumbs from fridge shelves.

A week before the announcement of Weinberg's appointment, at the school's graduation ceremony and speech day, a letter from Bibelman was read out on his behalf. He couldn't deign show up in person for some silly 16 year old girlies just like not a single governor showed their shameful faces either. Not even the Principal, Pinter, on his fat wage, who otherwise pops up for the opening of a lemonade bottle,  graced the event with his appearance. Yet Weinberg was in the audience. Nevertheless, Bibelman's letter informed mothers that the governors were still in the process of appointing a head-teacher. Still in the process, yeah, of course they were. And how many of the other candidates were in attendance?

But still you think I'm biased and Pinter, aided and abetted by his cronies and stooges, hasn't quite hijacked the school, Weinberg's appointment is down to her incredible precociousness, the many family members in senior positions pure coincidence and otherwise everything is run strictly on merit. So perhaps explain why Pinter has a job at all. He does not spend too much time at the school, he never addresses pupils and appears neither at the start nor at the end of year ceremonies. The only time he is guaranteed to show up is on one of his VIP invitee visits when naturally there are cameras in tow. Yet he draws a full time wage despite the fact that he is both principal of his private schools and dean of his private seminary. A man of many talents, no doubt, and generously funded by the taxpayer.

And he isn't just any principal. With a bunch of do-nothing governors, he is the one who fulfils their duties too. He sees to admissions, to employment, to maintenance, to cheque signing, to external relations and to wherever he can stick a finger in so long that it consolidates his control. But as a governor he wouldn't earn a salary and so Principal suits him just fine especially when he has all the governors and trustees in his pocket.

Sem proposals

But still it's my bias. So consider how Pinter and his Head-teacher wife have been allocated space in the school to set up their own private, fee-paying seminary (6th form), Be'er Miriam, and for which they pay no rent. To make this space available the school reduced the available numbers of pupils thus reducing the ‘problem’ of overcapacity (see excerpt from the minutes above). And yet despite the reduced numbers the Head Teacher's salary kept on rising until it now stands at about £90,000 p.a. And now it is YHS girls who've been thrown to the wolves by being rejected from this very same seminary by a faceless, nameless panel who won't even give you a reason other than 'you don't fit in'.

Mins, hall hire, principal

But that is also not enough. It is Pinter who was responsible for negotiating the wedding hall contract (see above) by which hard-pressed parents and communal organisations are ripped off to the tune of about £2,500+ per event. The contract is between YHS and Simchas Nisuin which is an arm of the UOHC. Pinter is a trustee of UOHC, Lobenstein was chair of governors of YHS at the time and deputy president of UOHC and there was other crossover between members of both organisations but no one declared any interest. Which is how these two communal organisations have effectively conspired to rob us, the community, blind. And all within the law, no doubt.

YHS Trust, contact

Let us make no pretences. This entire process is rigged. The trust which controls the school has a minimal number of 3 trustees, each a long-established Pinter stooge, with the contact none other than Pinter himself at his home address. They in turn appoint a governing body of yet more stooges and cronies who rarely speak up at meetings, on those rare occasions that they bother turning up, who are happy to delegate anything and everything to the Principal, who in his benevolence is happy to take almost everything on. The governing body in its turn elects a chair, previously Joe Lobenstein and now Bibelman, both undertakers of impeccable credentials and each happier than the other to rubber-stamp all that suits the Dear Principal & Co's agenda.

And now for his troubles they have presented Pinter with the ultimate prize by crowning his daughter head teacher and with a masterstroke guaranteeing the succession for the next generation. As a member of one of the school bodies said to a complaining parent: "I know terrible things have been done under this phrase but I am really only following orders." Says it all, really.

But it is not just the governors and trustees who are to blame. The blame must be shared with the Hackney Learning Trust who know exactly what is going on but are too frightened to take Pinter on. With the JC and other newspapers who will quote Pinter incessantly on almost anything but will never try to pierce the veil that shrouds his organisations. With the Jonathan Freedlands and the Lord Glasmans and the bobbies and the machers and the shvitzers who will all come dancing to the Pinter soirees, sip his chareidi kool-aid to show the world how wonderfully inclusive they are but will not raise as much as an eyebrow at his shenanigans. How come he and his family occupy so many positions and how come he has a full time role as principal and yet can be all over town as soon as a lens pops up?

Then there are the organisations like NAJOS, Agudas Yisroel Housing, the London Jewish Forum, adoption agencies, health forums and a multitude of others who will give Pinter seats on their boards and consult with him despite the fact that he will allow no one of any independence anywhere close to his. On top of that there is our fawning media, renowned for its openness and fidelity to truth, who can always be relied on to do his bidding. Instead of thundering headlines at YHS's undisguised contempt these papers will display his picture almost weekly and report extensively on the crowning of his daughter without even a murmur of disgust.

And last but not least is us. Whether we are frightened, suffering from a severe bout of Stockholm Syndrome, or worst of all, apathetic, this could not happen if at some level we did not will it. Like some kind of Candide we have been led to believe that however bad things are it's still the best possible outcome and if not for the blue blood of that family we'd be even worse off.

The plain truth is that we are sheep and for that we deserve nothing better than the wolves we have snarling over us. Bibelman was quoted as saying what a proud appointment this is for YHS. It is not. It is a shameful appointment by a shameless governing body for a shamed community.

Monday, 14 October 2013

YESODEY HATORAH SENIOR GIRLS SCHOOL - ADMISSIONS

Yesodey Hatorah Admissions Information Pack

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

on admissions to

Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School

“In drawing up their admission arrangements, admission authorities must ensure that the practices and the criteria used to decide the allocation of school places are fair, clear and objective. Parents should be able to look at a set of arrangements and understand easily how places for that school will be allocated” (Introduction to the School Admission Code, February 2012)

1. Q. I would like to apply for my daughter to join Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School (the School) but she does not attend Yesodey Hatorah Primary School. Can the School refuse my daughter a place because of the primary school she currently or has previously attended?

A. No. It is against the law for the School to favour applicants who attended an independent fee-paying primary school. Yesodey Hatorah Primary School is an independent fee-paying school and girls from that school may not be given any advantage in the admissions process.

2. Q. How old must my daughter be when I apply to the School?

A. For admission in September 2014 your child must have been born between 01/09/2002-31/08/2003.

3. Q. What are the main advantages of my daughter attending the School?

A. The School has a heimishe yiddishe atmosphere with a very strong frum ethos. The School was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in its most recent report; the School consistently achieves some of the highest grades in Hackney and in the country as a whole; there are no compulsory school fees payable and the School does not currently seek a voluntary contribution for kodesh studies.

4. Q. How can I obtain more information about the School?

A. Information about the School is contained at the School’s webpages here and in the Hackney Learning Trust secondary school admissions brochure (the admissions brochure). For up-to-date admission arrangements rely only on the admissions brochure.

5. Q. How can I find out about the grades achieved by the School in recent years?

A. The exam results of the School and lots of other information can be found on the School’s page on the Department for Education website.

6. Q. Has the School been inspected by Ofsted and where can I see its reports?

A. The School last had a full inspection in 2006 and an interim inspection in 2010. The full reports can be found on the Ofsted website here.

7. Q. Does the School hold an open day?

A. No.

8. Q. Am I able to visit the School prior to making an application?

A. Yes. The School’s page in the admissions brochure* states that to arrange a visit you should contact the School. The School’s telephone no. is 020 8826 5500.

9. Q. Must the parents or our daughter meet the Head Teacher, the Principal or anyone else from the School before or during any stage of the application process?

A. No. It is against the law for the School to require an interview with either prospective pupils or their parents in the course of the admissions process.

10. Q. May the School refuse my daughter a place because she did not achieve good grades in primary school?

A. No. The School does not select according to ability.

11. Q. My daughter is disabled/has special needs. Is that a valid reason for refusing her a place?

A. No. It is against the law for the School to discriminate on grounds of disability or special needs. There is a separate process for children with a Statement of Special Educational Needs. This is set out at page 14 of the admissions brochure.

12. Q. What are the criteria for being accepted to the School?

A. The School stipulates that all pupils must abide “by the principles and ethics of the Charedi community.” The School’s definition of “Charedi” and its general admissions policy can be found here.

13. Q. I am of chasidish / litvish / sefardi / yekish origin. Is this a reason for the School to refuse my daughter a place?

A. It is against the law for the school to discriminate on grounds of race, religion or belief (subject to the school’s religious ethos). Decisions on admissions must also be fair and objective.

14. Q. How do I apply to the School?

A. Parents can complete the application form online at www.eadmissions.org. See below for a Step by Step Guide to Making an Application for further details on how and where to make an application and for important deadlines. You should also consult the admissions brochure on page 15.

15. Q. I do not have internet access. Can I make an application on a paper form?

A. Yes. Hackney residents can download a paper form here. Residents of other boroughs should contact their home local authority for a form. See contact details below. (If applying online it is the same procedure wherever you live.)

16. Q. Must I provide any proof of identity?

A. Yes. You must include with your application a council tax bill of this year or a housing benefit letter and a gas, water, electricity or telephone land line bill not more than 2 months old. You must submit original documents.

17. Q. What is the deadline for applying to the School?

A. Friday 25 October 2013 is the date when Hackney Learning Trust prefers all application to have been submitted either online or by a paper application. (The on-line admissions website will accept applications until 31 October 2013.) See page 9 of the admissions brochure for all important dates.

18. Q. The admissions brochure mentions a Supplementary Information Form that must be submitted as part of my application. What is this?

A. The Supplementary Information Form contains the ‘Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) Chareidi Ethos and Rules’. This is an important form to satisfy the religious requirements for admission to the School. The form also contains a ‘Confirmation of Chareidi Status’ which must be signed by a member of the UOHC Rabbinate.

19. Q. Where can I obtain the Supplementary Information Form?

A. A Supplementary Information Form can be downloaded here.

20. Q. How do I arrange for a member of the UOHC Rabbinate to sign the Supplementary Information Form?

A. You should contact the offices of the UOHC on 020 8802 6226 (020 8458 2326 for NW London) for advice on how to obtain a signature of confirmation.

21. Q. I have read the form and I do not conform to some points on the School’s ethos. However, I think this is unfair because there are people I know who have daughters at the school and who also do not fully conform. What can I do about it?

A. Faith based criteria (which is what the Supplementary Information Form seeks to apply) must be fair, easy to understand and fairly applied. If your daughter is refused a place and you feel you have been unfairly treated you can appeal.

22. Q. I have recently moved to London and no one really knows me here / my family does not live in the Stamford Hill area and I do not know members of the Rabbinate. Can I still apply?

A. The law requires admission procedures to be fair. You should contact a rov or dayan who knows your family and ask them to write a letter for you or to contact a member of the Rabbinate to provide a reference on your behalf.

23. Q. Where do I send the completed Supplementary Information Form?

A. The completed Supplementary Information Form should be sent to the School, details below NOTE: ONLY THE SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION FORM IS SENT TO THE SCHOOL. IF THE PAPER APPLICATION FORM IS USED IT MUST BE SENT TO YOUR HOME LOCAL AUTHORITY’S SCHOOL ADMISSION TEAM. (For Hackney residents this is Hackney Learning Trust.)

24. Q. What is the deadline for returning the Supplementary Information Form to the School?

A. 31 October 2013. It is very important that you contact the UOHC about the Supplementary Information Form as soon as possible.

25. Q. I do not live in Hackney. Does that put me at a disadvantage?

A. The School may not discriminate because you live in another borough. You must apply through your home local authority who will forward your application to Hackney Learning Trust. See the contact sheet for details of some neighbouring local authorities.

26. Q. Is the distance that I live from the School relevant to the admissions process?

A. Generally no. However, if the School is oversubscribed (see below) and after having prioritised applicants under the oversubscription criteria there still remain insufficient places then priority will be given to the applicant living closest to the School.

27. Q. I applied just before the deadline. Will parents who applied before me have priority?

A. No. A child may not be given priority because their application was later than others so long that the application was submitted before the deadline.

28. Q. Once I have made an application by when can I expect a reply?

A. On or shortly after 3 March 2014 you will receive a letter or email from Hackney Learning Trust. If you do not receive a reply by that time you should contact your home local authority.

29. Q. My daughter has been offered a place at the School. Must I do anything further to accept the place?

A. The acceptance letter will have a reply form attached. You must complete and return the reply form by 17 March 2014 to confirm that you are accepting the offer. You can also accept the offer online at www.eadmissions.org.uk. If you don’t do this, the offer of a place at the School may be withdrawn.

30. Q. My daughter has been refused a place. Must the School give me a reason?

A. A refusal to offer you a place must state the reasons why admission has been refused. The refusal letter must also give you information about the right to appeal, the deadline for lodging an appeal and the contact details for making an appeal.

31. Q. The School has told me that they had more applications than places available, (oversubscribed), and they have no place for my daughter. Is this a legitimate reason for refusal?

A. It may be in some circumstances. The school publishes oversubscription criteria as part of the admissions information which can be found here. The oversubscription criteria themselves must be fair and objective and must also be fairly and objectively applied. Parents must be able to understand easily how the religious requirements in the oversubscription criteria can be reasonably satisfied.

32. Q. Do pupils of Yesodey Hatorah Primary School have priority if the School is oversubscribed?

A. No. See the reply to Q.1 above.

33. Q. Is the School generally oversubscribed?

A. Last year there were 59 applications for 80 available places at the School. All applicants were successful.

34. Q. My daughter has been refused a place and I’m not sure what else I can do about it. Can I appeal?

A. Yes. You have a right to appeal to an independent school admissions appeal panel which the school must set up to hear your appeal. It is beyond the scope of this FAQ to cover appeals and a separate appeals FAQ may be published should the need arise. For useful information on appeals see this link here.

35. Q. What is the deadline to appeal?

A. 24 March 2014. This is a very important deadline and you must lodge your appeal before this date. If an appeal is lodged after this date relating to a late application the School will still have to make arrangements for your appeal to be heard.

36. Q. My daughter has been refused a place and I would like to know who made the decision. How can I find out?

A. You should ask the School which should provide you with that information. It is against the law for a single person to decide on admissions.

37. Q. I am concerned that the reasons given to me for a refusal may not be the true reasons and I would like to know what information the School or the UOHC hold on me. How can I obtain this information?

A. Under the Data Protection Act you may make a subject access request to the School and/or the UOHC to provide you with all the personal information they hold on you. Further information how to make such a request can be found here.

38. Q. My daughter is already at a secondary school and we would like to transfer her to the School for the coming school year or during the current year (In-year Admissions). Are we able to do this?

A. Yes, provided there are vacancies in the class. According to the most recent information provided by the School there are vacancies in Year 7 and in Year 11. You can apply even where there are no vacancies and you will be placed on a waiting list.

39. Q. What is the procedure for In-year Admissions and is there a deadline?

A. An application form can be requested from Hackney Learning Trust. This form should be returned directly to Hackney Learning Trust irrespective of the borough in which you live. You will also have to complete a Supplementary Information Form which should be returned to the School. There is no deadline and you can apply at any time.

40. Q. Where can I find further information?

A. Please refer to the admissions brochure for all further information or call Hackney Learning Trust on 020 8820 7501

If you have additional questions please leave them in the comments or write to yhsforum@gmail.com

The YHS Forum is independent from Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School and is not associated with the School.

Step-by-step guide to YHS application and Contact details

1. Set up online account at www.eadmissions.org.uk. This applies to all applicants.

If you are applying on a paper form then Hackney residents only should use the application form which can be download here. Residents of other boroughs must contact their home local authorities for an alternative paper form.

2. Complete the Supplementary Information form  and contact the UOHC for it to be signed by a member of the Rabbinate.

3. Complete the application form online or submit your paper application form to your local authority preferably by 25 October 2013 but by no means any later than 31 October 2013. A late application will put you at a severe disadvantage.

4. Submit the completed and signed Supplementary Information form to the School by no later than 31 October 2013.

5. Sit back and hope for the best.

GOOD LUCK!


CONTACT SHEET


Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School

Egerton Road, London N16 6UB

Tel: 020 8826 5500

admin@yesodeyhatorah.org

School pages on NAJOS website

School pages on Learning Trust website

School’s Admission Policy

Supplementary Information Form

Hackney Learning Trust

Reading Lane, London E1,

Secondary School Admissions page

Tel: 020 8820 7501

School Application Form

Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations

140 Stamford Hill, London N16 6QT

Tel: 020 8802 6226

213 Golders Green Road,

London NW11 9BY

Tel: 020 8458 2326

London Borough of Haringey

Secondary School Admissions page

Tel: 020 8489 1000
Email: schooladmissions@haringey.gov.uk

London Borough of Barnet

Tel: 020 8359 7651

Secondary School Admissions page

London Borough of Redbridge (Ilford)

Secondary Schools Admissions page

020 8708 3129 / 3996

admissionsandAwards@redbridge.gov.uk

Sunday, 1 September 2013

What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailors

DfE Yeshives education2

For the story so far see here… and now read on.

After the auditory contest between voices of reason on one side and cacophonous canines on the other it will come as little surprise to learn that the dogs gained the upper paw. It's not for nothing that 'man bites dog' makes the more implausible headline.

What supposedly happened beyond that initially reported was that a group of school heads who did not make it to the Westminster outing wrote to Rav Padwa a sulking letter stating that they do not wish to be represented by AOJSOL. For a start they felt that the acronym is too long for people who on a point of principle shun the English language and unless is was transliterated into Hebrew or circumcised by 3 or more letters they will have nothing to do with tongue twisters of this kind. Besides, it is their firmly held belief that a policy of talking to the authorities and negotiating with the DfE over the secular education of kids carries with it the stench of capitulation and surrender and it is our shirts that are white and not our flags.

The local thinking goes roughly so. Our starting position will always be that whatever curriculum they have in mind it is still lehavdil inferior to ours. Period. Sof posuk. And even if it was equal, which of course it is chas vecholilo not, non-Jewish children are not taught Yiddish or Hebrew so there is no reason why Jewish children should be taught English. Or maths, geography, history and science for that matter, which round here all come under the rubric of 'English'. To this must be added that our kids don't do drugs and we have no teenage pregnancies out of wedlock and this, as we well know, is an excuse for anything from loft extensions to double parking, honking horns and overloaded school buses. Mind you we don't do brain surgeons or precision engineers either but that's being pedantic so let's move on.

This preamble conveniently out of the way, we must then challenge the DfE that English is bichlal not so important. You see, non-heimishes have jobs descending deep into mineshafts and window-cleaning skyscrapers and the Tower of Babel story teaches us that without a good grounding in linguistics ascending too high can cause one to hit the buffers. By contrast, us chosen ones are surrounded by zillionaires who were not taught any English and have still made it in life in a way that the schlemazels at the DfE can only dream of. And so we ought to tell them that if only they experienced the taste of a Shabbos table replete with plastic tablecloths and 13 dips before the fish they too would undoubtedly concede that Rabbi Tarfon beats Darwin and 'An alleyway that is taller than 20 cubits' trumps Henry VIII and his 8 wives, thank you very much.

(It may assist to add that Richard Branson also has no university education plus he sports a beard and has not done too badly for himself either. This could raise the rather delicate matter of the name of his brand and his proste habit of hoisting up stewardesses in his arms. In fairness, though, the last time I saw his meidelech in Terminal 3 they were all clad in coats which reached considerably further than 4 inches below the knee although truth be said the coats were red and their length may have encroached beyond chareidi and into MO territory.)

So going back to where we started, since this unfortunately was not the approach taken by the AOJSOL, the dissenting schools decided to play truant. After all, what are English lessons for if not for playing up? But what really upset them more than anything was that if not for that un-pronounceable acronym the mandarins at the DfE wouldn' t even know of our existence. And since this is their trump card it warrants some further thought.

As the previous post made clear, every year the ground somewhere on the border between E5 and N16 opens up and swallows 150 or so 13 year olds, drawn as they must be to the sweet melodies of our pied pipers. Not quite pipers as the local instrument of choice happens to be the synthetic keyboard but they are mesmerised by some kind of heimishe tune nonetheless. Given that these kids are completely off the radar, the argument goes, if not for the AOJSOL snitching to the DfE they in Westminster would know nothing about our yeshivos which could then thrive happily ever after. Our Jewish ingenuity has got us out of the deepest of ruts and this one need have been no different. And even should the education apparatchiks have decided to pay us a visit and survived the trip to our neck of the woods we would still have been able to arrange an askan here and a shtadlan there to bamboozle them with facts and figures until they'd be searching for nothing but the exit.

Well, as I almost said at the outset, this is firmly canine territory of the insane type and if there is one thing to be certain of in this asylum it is that the lunatics win out in the end. Reason and sanity have no role to play other than in their scarcity and round here the less one possesses of those hazardous attributes the more one is likely to succeed. And so the AOJSOL beat a hasty retreat and for last 18 months the barking lot were able to rub their hands in glee for having totted up yet another victory. Until this letter, of course, to which far brighter minds are currently applying their assets and who need no input from us lot.

But before I retire my pen I wish to address just once thought that may be fleeting through the mind of the casual observer. One might just wonder at this stage where the parents come into all of this. I mean, it's all very well with the Westminster door-openers appearing for a photo call in the Tribune and the opponents resorting to the shul noticeboards because to them even the Tribune is not kosher enough. But surely parents must take some stand on the matter of the education of their dear neshomolech. A fair point, I'd think.

Well, Mr Casual Observer, never mind a stand, they don't even have a seat on the issue. It's more like that they lie prostrated in a permanent vegetative state, though this does require some qualification.

If a survey were to be carried out in Stamford Hill I'd lay a bet that the vast majority of parents would prefer (not much more than that, I'm afraid) their children to be taught the basics of the English language . Let's face it, at some point in life they may have to make an insurance claim or complain about the lack of kosher meals on a flight to Acapulco and should the wife at that time be institutionalised in Beis Broche and not at hand to assist a smattering of English could be something of an asset.

I'd go one further, that most parents would think it not a bad idea to teach the kids some maths, too though many might baulk at the prospect of burdening their pure souls with Pythagorean triangles and Euclidean geometry. After all, what did Hashem create calculators for. For the sake of balance I should add that many if not most would almost certainly be opposed to the study of literature in the form of Jane Austen or Henry James and not to mention that old antisemite Mr W. Shakespeare.

Yet despite this apparent eagerness of parents for some form of secular education for their male offspring they still have the lower hand at the point of delivery. Which brings us back to the barking lot.

Parent power is not something mentioned in the mishna berura and if it makes any sense it's just another reason to shun it like a vaccination. And so parents sacrifice their kids for the sake of their kids. Deny them the education they are entitled to for the sake of their birthright of a good shiduch. Coerce them by omission into a life of limited opportunities at best and public dependency at worst for the sake of not rocking the boat.

What they fail to note is that that their vessel is no longer seaworthy, the captains are drunk and the brainiest are going overboard. But those who remain will refuse to provide a life vest to their kids to carry them through the high seas of life because like seat belts it's yet another thing we don't quite believe in.

And so backwards we drift with no pointer on our compass.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

YHS: Ofsted or no Ofsted?

Last week pupils at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School were told that there would be an Ofsted inspection yesterday and today. An ‘inspector’ duly turned up yesterday.

Ofsted have confirmed that “Ofsted is not conducting an inspection of the school on those two dates.”

Parents, as usual, were told nothing.

Can the Principal or the Chair of the Board of Governors perhaps clarify what is going on?

Friday, 27 April 2012

YHS: Chareidi v Orthodox

YH teacher hamodiaYH teacher jc

Spot the difference

Above are recruitment ads for Science and English teachers for the YH Secondary girls' school. Nothing strange in that other than perhaps they may have run out of a ready supply of ex-sem girls and so must cast their net further afield. That however should be a cause for celebration as it indicates that the latest batch of sem graduates have spent their valuable formative years studying how to de-bug lettuce and sew hems and not filling their heads with such narishkeiten as the writings of that notorious anti-semite and his musings on Brutus and Casius. We have hespeidim of gedoilim beginning moirai vraboisai not speeches to friends and countrymen about thrice refusing crowns. That is not the Torah way.

Besides, do you know that Science KS3 has life processes as a subject which in turn includes repr-duction, rachmono litzlon? Is that what we needed a state aided school for to teach our heilige kinderlech how to have more kinderlech kenienehore, chas vcholilo?

Getting back to the advert which is what brought me here in the first place, you may have noticed on first blush that one has an email in the heading while the other one doesn't. Again nothing to raise an eyebrow since different audiences have different tastes and while one type of reader may shun a school that has no email medium for communication another may be attracted for that very reason. Anyway both have an email further in the text and so it's simply a case of not shouting it out too loud.

Ok, Tickle, your obsession with YHS seems to be getting the better of you and if this is all you have to say why not just shut up?

But, let me grab your wrist, hang on a second. Take a look at the beginning of the ad and you will notice that while the one on the right begins with YHS being an "Orthodox Jewish Voluntary Aided School based in Stamford Hill" that bit has been excised from the ad on the left. One searches for an explanation and wonders if it the Orthodox in the sentence the other paper objected to or is it the Stamford Hill bit?

The Torah as always comes to the rescue and it is only when we apply the 13th rule of Rabbi Yishmael's rules of extrapolation that we can make some sense. This is the rule that where two passages contradict each other 'until along comes the third passage and reconciles between them.'

And the third way in this case being our old friend, admissions.

y-admissions

As the admissions brochure above shows the O word dares not speak its name and it's the C word that predominates: Charedi. You know who they are, I assume. That group that is on the cusp of becoming the majority of Anglo Jewry and according to the 'principal' we should be planning ahead. Presumably by rewriting JFS admissions criteria and lining up some family members for the JLC and BoD. But oy how I digress.

Didn’t I mention reconciliation? So hold on tight because we are now going on a Talmudical roller coaster and here comes a long extrapolation, exegesis, exposition and reconciliation all rolled into one.

You see, the ad on the right comes from the JC whose readers are as likely to send their kids to YHS as the Chief Rabbi on the YHS podium is likely to appear in the Hamodia, and even if those readers were to apply the very taking of that paper is likely to win their application an instant place in the waste-paper basket and memeile we can spill the beans to them that we are O in order to attract those teachers who might turn their nose up upon sight of the C word and we still won't risk chas vcholilo a queue forming at those daunting iron gates (reserved for visitors only). Ma she'ein kein with the Hamodia where the advert on the left appeared if we were to tell their readers that we are Orthodox only rachmono litzlon and based in Stamford Hill noch it could affect business for the school hall whose hirers and leaseholders may take objection to the shande of an O presence in the holy square mile. We also can't mention the C word because there is a minhag not to advertise the school lest parents whose children are not lucky enough to be enrolled in the eponymous primary school clamour to get over those railings and we can't have a rabble at our gates as if we're an apple store launching a new ip-d, chas vsholem. Let them therefore think we're in the Outer Hebrides and don't even tell them we're Jewish and then maybe they'll stop fardreiing us a kop with applications and appeals so that we have more time to concentrate on applying the 4-inch-below-knee rule. So to sum up, and here we conclude, when writing to bring them in use the O word, when writing to keep them out use that deliciously indefinable C word which works a dream for exclusions and when straddling both worlds leave it out alltogether and a plague on both their shuls.

Phew, are you still here? Well, do hurry up, applications close today!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

School fights

A silent battle has been raging in Stamford Hill for the last few weeks or even months and possibly years though you would know little about it if you merely followed the local press. The noticeboards have been of some assistance though they also only tell part of the tale. I do not pretend to know all the details so I will present what I do know and leave it to others to fill in the missing bits.

objects

Poised on one side is The Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools and Organisations Ltd (AOJSO). Quite a mouth full, I know, but we do like grand sounding names and acronyms round here so let's not dwell on peripheral matters. The AOJSO has made it its task to represent local Jewish schools and yeshivas to government bodies. A notice which popped up on the noticeboards for a short while underlined the object of 'encouraging the fullest co-operation’ between schools and the authorities.

Massed on the other extreme is Satmar of the 86 Cazenove chapter and some anonymous activists who may or may not be associated with them. To them any dialogue with 'outside' authorities is anathema as things are best when left untouched because, let's face it, Judaism has been untouched for 2000 odd years and we're doing rather well thank you very much.

And in the middle are those who are neither modernisers, for want of a better word, nor loonies who will oppose if only for the sake of opposition. These will gladly follow almost anything so long that it is led by someone bearded in a shtreimel though even then it should not carry too much of a 'modern' whiff about it.

The issue of primary concern to the AOJSO is the Bermuda Triangle of Stamford Hill where numerous boys between the ages of 13-16 disappear from the system into a black hole. That might be something of an misnomer as in fact they are being groomed to be grooms for one thing but also to a life of spiritual ecstasy while being entrusted with the passcode to the world to come. So rather than a dark pit perhaps we should call it a bright skylight.

Anyway, the law demands that children in this country up to the age of 16 are taught a broad and balanced curriculum. For those getting itchy and minded to jump up and down and flailing their arms about because our curriculum is as broad and balanced as anyone else’s and we whose ancestors were worshipping a golden calf long before theirs had even dreamt of Stonehenge will not be taking any lessons on what to teach our kids, please calm down and do let me finish. You see the 'broad and balanced curriculum' also includes spoken and written English. Yup, I realise that can be something of a problem so get your cheeks in your palms and time to do some thinking.

So an Association was formed to meet the authorities and see what can be done. Not that bad, is it? We meet government ministers to discuss clocks going back and request that they be turned back 1000 years rather than tinker with the odd hour. We campaign for a more lax planning regime unless it's for an eiruv in which case we want the death penalty for violation of a mere by-law on Hampstead Heath. We pop up on the radio to campaign for housing benefit rather than sort out our education and get more people into work. So why not campaign on that very issue of education? It is becoming ever more difficult for our Pied Pipers to have the increasing number of boys 'vanish’ and some saner minds have decided that it may be a good idea to regularise these yeshivas.

And it came to pass that last month Stamford Hill and Golders Green put their ties on and went to Westminster for some shtadlonus in the good old fashioned way. For reasons unknown, a notable absence was our photogenic 'leader', 'rabbi' and 'spokesman' who 'runs several schools.' Perhaps he was not invited or he may have made himself scarce. I suppose when one runs a communal school as if it's the family corner shop one does tend to be suspicious of a grand sounding Association which may get the wrong idea of poking its nose into areas outside its concern, especially when the husband, wife and kids are doing such a marvellous job.

But what about the English, I hear you cry. Well, to some, if it means that the boys have to study some 'English', which is the local all-encompassing word for secular studies, then so be it. I suspect that those behind the project find it convenient to be able to point a finger at the authorities and that it’s not, God forbid, of their own initiative. But therein lies the point because once you have some schools regularised it becomes easier for the authorities to clamp down on the dissenters.

Well, all hell did break loose in some circles and in one speech in Satmar '86' a US speaker, Menashe Fillip, accused the 'AOGSO' (sic) and those behind it of heresy and much worse and of inciting the 'goyim' to make demands of the yeshivas on their study programs because the 'goyim' if left alone would allow us to do what we like 'until the coming of the Messiah'. Strong words although he may have something of a point.

DfE briefing notes

Apparently the meeting last month was not the first. The document above is from the Department for Education's website of the briefing notes for previous meetings where the issues are set out in some detail. (Further details are available here, and the JC article referred to is here.) Particularly intriguing is the note on page 2 that the DfE requested assistance on this matter from local authorities but 'most authorities were reluctant to assist.'

This must have included Hackney where many if not most of these yeshivas are located and betrays a remarkable blind-eye attitude especially when compared to say enforcement of planning breaches. It amounts to a policy which effectively says, do with yourselves as and what you like and we shall stand back so long that you don't bother us. You wish to ruin your kids' employment prospects and deny them a half-decent education? No problem. You want to operate your schools in ramshackle buildings with little regard to the safety and welfare of the children? Please feel free to do so. Your family kindly seeks to commandeer an entire school from admissions to a private 6th form on the school premises and balance the books with the school hall? Our pleasure. But please just one small request: whatever you choose to do do it in your own backyard. Add as much as a slate to your roof, however, and we'll be down on you like a ton of bricks. Political correctness in action, some might say. Or second class citizens, perhaps.

email

This being Stamford Hill, the gravity of the situation was immediately sensed and our special forces sprung into action. The email above appears to indicate that there may have been rival attempts to bend ministerial ears organised by Rabbi Herschel Gluck (famously savaged by Geoffrey Alderman) but which were roundly rebuffed. Gluck did however get to meet some mandarin with ‘Grand Rabbi’ Schlesinger which must count for some achievement. Apparently, there has also been a letter from school heads to Rabbi Padwa that they do not wish to be represented by the AOJSO though it may have been later withdrawn.

Finally, our dear vice president’s presence cannot be overlooked. The DfE notes provide biographical information for each of the attendees. For His Grace, the coucillorship and mayoralship are duly noted as is the vice presidency of the UOHC. Omitted, however, is his Chairmanship of the Board of Governors of YH Senior Girls School. Even if he may only be a nominee it surely should be worthy of mention when meeting a minister on the very subject of secondary education. One must attribute this coyness to the great man's trade mark humility and reserve and we are proud to have the opportunity to fill in the record.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

My school taught me nothing.....

Below is a blog from The Times website. There is little to add other than to disagree with the writer’s statement that the religious education at many of our schools is ‘as high as you might expect.’ The sad truth is that despite more than half a century of phenomenal growth in Torah institutions and tens of thousands of children and teens who have studied little else but Torah and related subjects, the general ignorance of the laity and even of some of the cloth is breath-taking.

Fed on an almost exclusive diet of Hebrew texts from the age of 5 and Talmud from 11 and yet some of the most popular books for adults are basic and often crude linear translations of rudimentary texts in the prayers books and the Talmud. There is barely any study or even knowledge of the Bible beyond Deuteronomy. Psalms are chanted endlessly with few comprehending the meaning of the words let alone appreciating the beauty of the poetry. Hebrew poetry, even by ‘kosher’ authors, is simply not available in frum bookshops nor taught in schools. Those compositions that have found their way into the liturgy are chanted once a year and promptly restored to the bookshelf. Jewish thought is not so much frowned upon as ignored altogether and the very idea that there may be doubts about some of our ‘certainties’ is simply denied.

Such is the standard that very few of these graduates outside Israel can compose a simple letter in Hebrew despite studying it, in Yiddish despite speaking it or in English despite being born and bred here. But then I suppose that’s what wives are for.

So, so much for our ‘high’ standard of religious education.

My school taught me nothing.....
Sarah Ebner Yesterday, 2:15PM

I have two fascinating new guest posts to share with you, both from Joe Miller. He's 23, and currently working as a freelance journalist and copywriter, but his journey from school to university, and then into the workplace, has not been a straightforward one.

Religion is back in the headlines, especially with Richard Dawkins comments about Christianity and the news that the applicants for the next set of free schools include an evangelical Christian group. This seems a good time to run Joe's first piece.

"The primary school I attended had not one female member of staff. Not even in the nursery. None of the teachers had any form of training, and many of them were unable to speak English properly. A total of two hours per day was set aside for the combined study of English, Maths and Science. Physical punishment was commonplace and the atmosphere was one of perpetual fear. Religious studies were the core focus, and any form of dissent, even something as slight as not concentrating during daily prayers, was harshly penalized. You may by now be assuming that I was educated many decades ago, or under some fundamentalist regime. But this was in London. In the 1990s.

This was an ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys school; one of many similar institutions in the area. I was sent there in good faith (pun not intended) by my religious, but by no means extremist parents, who wanted their son to gain a Jewish education alongside a secular one, and to do so within an acceptable distance from home. What they were unaware of was that behind closed doors this institution was run in manner more akin to Dickens' Dotheboys Hall than a modern school under John Major's government.

I emerged relatively unscathed from this experience (I was naturally compliant), but I know of several others who were not as fortunate. Contemporaries of mine suffered extreme physical abuse at the hands of some of the teaching staff, with one boy getting his finger broken for speaking out of turn, and consequently requiring medical care. Others suffered severe beatings, and some even had soap or chalk put in their mouths for uttering so-called profanities. Some of this wasn't even illegal for most of my time at the school. Corporal punishment in private schools was only banned in 1998.

Yet, horrendous as these incidents were, the school's real crime was providing its pupils with an abysmally poor education. I was lucky enough to supplement my inadequate lessons by devouring our home library and by learning from my parents, both of whom had received a regular education. Had I not been able to do this, my literacy and numeracy skills would be of a debilitating standard. The school's mission was to prepare its pupils for a life of religious study - all other considerations were ignored. Conversation and teaching outside of the two-hours of secular study took place exclusively in Yiddish.

You may be wondering why Ofsted did nothing to prevent this. Well for a start, the inspections were scheduled well in advance, giving the school enough time to clean up its act and instruct the pupils on how to respond if questioned. Students were warned to be wary of giving the school a bad name, as this would in turn desecrate God's name. Additionally, the inspectors were often practising ultra-Orthodox Jews themselves, and thus perhaps sympathetic towards the school's ethos.

Ultimately, even if the school had been given a damning report, Ofsted has little power to enact any changes. The most recent report was dreadful, yet I doubt much will be done to improve the school, and it will remain oversubscribed due to the burgeoning community which it serves.

I don't wish to paint a wholly condemnatory portrait, as there were some good teachers in the mix, and the standard of religious education was as high as you might expect. But this was a school (and there are many like it), which crippled its students by denying them the education which they had a right to receive and preventing them from flourishing into active members of society. If only for the sake of those who continue, by all accounts, to be held-back by institutions such as this one, some form of housecleaning is well overdue."

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Yesodey Hatorah Senior School: holding its figures to account – Part II

See Part I below

Rather than quibble with Ofsted's grading I have run a simple comparison exercise on the Department of Education website comparing YHS to other Hackney secondary schools for which figures are available. The results, which are for 2009-2010, are produced below.

I will let the figures speak for themselves and merely say that either the individuals/family/board or whoever runs the school has developed a miraculous formula by which they can achieve an 'Outstanding' grade yet spend overall only 86% of their allocated budget, and less than 50% of it on actual teaching, employ less than a handful of FTE (full time equivalent) qualified teachers, maintain a teacher to pupil ratio that would barely fit the school hall though with a back office budget that exceeds each of the other schools.

Or these figures are crying out for some other explanation.

Attainment

These show YHS to be well above the national average and very high across the board.

Attainment 6 Dec - Copy

Who is teaching the children?

The number of qualified teachers is astoundingly low and the pupil to teacher ratio relates to qualified teachers only.

Teachers 6 Dec - Copy

How is the budget divided?

Since the income per pupil differs for each school the figures below are based on percentages of the income/spend per pupil. Note the relatively low percentage spent on teaching, the relatively high back office costs and the high unspent budget. It would be interesting to know why these funds aren’t being spent and what happens to this apparent surplus. The amount spent on building and energy is also high especially as it is a relatively new building.

budget 6 Dec 3 - Copy

Free School Meals

This is a particularly curious statistic as the 'principal' appeared on the BBC in relation to proposed housing benefit reforms to complain about the disproportionate effect it will have on this community. Yet here is a benefit administered through the school but the take up is incredibly low.

fsm 6 Dec

Data for individual schools is from the Department of Education's website for comparing schools and the national data is from this DoE page.

(Thanks to those who assisted with the charts)

Yesodey Hatorah Senior School: holding its figures to account – Part I

When criticism of YHS is aired, which is not very often since other than a mikveh or shul chat we don't really have a platform for debating these issues and the school is as likely to provide one as chickens would provide a venue for kapores, but nevertheless on those rare occasions when the matter is discussed the stock in trade defence usually goes something like this:

Firstly, this is the best you'll ever get round here and if this lot is done away with their replacement is likely to be some truly frightening loonies who will destroy all the positive things about the school. And anyway, the argument continues, the school has been rated Outstanding by Ofsted, their grades are well above average and so what is there to complain about. That the rating did not apply to Governance is unlikely to tax many in Stamford Hill where committees, meetings, minutes, resolutions and votes are not something many lose much sleep over.

I do not intend to dwell on these arguments at length because however good a job they may be doing it is still no excuse to monopolise a communal asset . It cannot be right for a school to be run by a small, largely self-appointed and unaccountable clique. Without others having a chance to genuinely participate in the running of the school at all levels we will never truly know how good a job is being carried out and whether it cannot be done better.

That aside, there are serious flaws in both arguments. The charge that we are unlikely to get anything better and will probably end up with something considerably worse is dangerously defeatist. Essentially it says that we are inherently incapable of running anything in an organised manner and so we must fall back on entrenched powers whatever the allegations of cronyism, nepotism and worse.

This is a gross insult to the many intelligent and perfectly capable men and women in Stamford Hill who can and do run public bodies in a fairer and more open manner. One would have to ignore the achievements of Agudas Yisroel Housing Association, Hatzole, Chaveirim, Bikur Cholim and many other communal bodies that do valuable work and yet are not run by a single strong man and his immediate and extended family.

This extends to schools too. Beis Chinuch is run by a committee and while it may be to the right of YHS it has also been rated 'Outstanding' in many areas. In addition, the recently opened Beis Yakov primary school only came to life as a result of YHS's invidious and arbitrary admission procedures, if they can be called such. It was set up and is run by a committee of volunteers, it is to the left of YHS and is now operating in its second year.

The main argument however remains that the school has been graded 'outstanding' and so if it ain't broke why fix it?

Continued in Part II

Monday, 28 November 2011

Words words (kosher) words

Letters (not) published in The Write Lines, the famous letters page that arrives from parts other publications won't acknowledge to exist

CCI27112011_0000 - Copy

Dear Editor

Like all heimishe yieden everywhere I was overwhelmed by hakoras hatov for the dedicated chosheve askonim who have made available the kosher dictionary. I immediately went out to the Hill to get one so that my children ke"h should no longer cholilo come across posule words when doing their homework. (Mentioning homework reminds me of the letter I wrote last year about the geferleche load of homework the girls are given so that they can't help their mothers in the evening, but now I am writing about something else.)

I had barely sat down to browse the new dictionary when I landed on my behind after noticing the word 'bum'. I didn't chas v'sholem go looking for such words but it literally stuck itself in my face. Luckily my children were not yet home so I could stick the pages together because oi lorosho v'oi lishcheino and I can't bear my children knowing other words that are tome from sitting so close to that disgusting word. But it made me realise that, like lettuce, how important it is to check even something with a hechsher. If rachmone litzlon that word crept in who knows what else might chas v'cholilo have been overlooked.

I am mamesh trembling with shock after searching a bit deeper at some of the words the Rabbonim didn't get to notice. I know I must be careful at the words I use in your publication which spreads yiros shomayim and ruchniyes to our kehille but it is equally important that parents are not chas vesholem nichshel. I ask those with heilige oigen to please look away but how can we tolerate our teiere neshomelech looking up words like 'butt', 'buttock', 'bottom' and 'breast'? I am ashamed to say this but even the word 's-x' was not taken out. What kind of chinuch are we giving to our precious kinderlech by including such miese verter? My father olev hasholem would wash our mouths with soap if we mentioned much more eidele words and here we have the worst possible words noch with a hechsher!

I immediately called my husband who told me not to do anything until he comes home from koilel because it's a sha'le if you must put it in sheimos as it has a hechsher or whether you are allowed to burn it because of those words. He agreed absolutely that such a book has no place in a yiddishe shtib and we must be so careful not to fall into the hechsher trap. I can now understand how meat from the same hechsher came to be transported with dovor acher after seeing those chazerishe words in a book certified by a lemehadrin authority.

What I think is even more shameful is that I saw in the Tribune by my friend's house (we don't buy beshite any papers) that Rabbonim who are fluent in English went over this dictionary before giving it a hechsher. First of all are such Rabbonim really suitable for us erliche yieden? And second of all how can we now trust a rov if we know he has sifted through all this shmutz? Maybe that's why there is no haskome because even the Rabbonim were ashamed that they had to read such treifene books. And third of all maybe that’s why they left in all those words and it's a simen they can't even talk such good English. They for sure can't talk French because they left 'lingerie' lying about in full view of the boys and rachmone litzlon even 'thong' was stuck in. Do they know the achrayus of publishing such a book? No wonder so many children are going off the derech if their precious neshomolech get to see such tomene words.

But I don't want to be nichshel with loshen hore and rechilus and also we must be dan lekaf zechus. The Rabbonim did include ‘spank’, beat', 'pinch', 'smack' and 'hit'. Boruch Hashem the Scrooges shlito also remembered to leave out 'Christmas' and even had the seichel to cut out 'fossil'. But couldn't they also remove 'evolution'? Isn't there enough kfiro that we need some more with the best hechsher in the world?

I also hoped at least they would include some heimishe English words like cheder, yeshive and shiduch. No wonder those chachomim from Oxford were so nispoel of the request for such a dictionary (besides that they required the cost of 2000 copies to be underwritten). The Rabbonim allowed them to teach our children narishe words like 'lugubrious' and 'rumbustious' which no one will anyway ever use but were ashamed to allow Hashem and mezuze? The Tribune thinks it was a kidush Hashem but it's really a huge chilul Hashem if you can't include 'God' and not even 'G-d'!

May we be zoiche to kedushe and to be nitzel from all the nisyoines that today's dor produces even with a hechsher.

A Dedicated Yiddishe Mame

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Dear Editor

I heard rachmone litzlon that some children have developed a new game where they have to guess words and then look it up in the kosher dictionary. If the word’s in they lose a point and if it's out they gain a point. My eyes are filled with tears writing this that such a michshoil could come out from a koshere dictionary and the musar haskeil is to avoid using Rabbonim who can speak English which boruch hashem is not so bad by us.

An Experienced Mechanech