Monday, 19 December 2011
Thursday, 15 December 2011
I was going to write with a background to this but time’s in short supply. Battle has however been joined in the other post so I’ll move the messages over here and let them continue but please folk keep it civil.
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
For translation see below
If you like following Anglo-Jewish politics, and no one will blame you if you don’t, you will know the politics of making a big tent for anything. A bit like I’m a Celebrity except that it goes, I’m a Reform Get Me Into There. The right wing of the US responds, We’re (pseudo) Charedim and get ya the hell outa here because you’re as welcome as Berlusconi at a Bat Mitzvah party. At this point the Jewish miLlionares Club (aka JLC) will see it as their duty to intervene with their own version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire or, rather, who wants a share of our millions. No 50/50 lifelines but an edict to phone-a-‘friend’ or else. Naturally, the Board of Deputies follows suit and, and, come on, wake up there at the back.
If you’ve followed this far you’ll have heard of the Big Tent events which basically gather together similarly minded pro-Israelis who spend a Sunday bemoaning boycotts and deligtimisation of which we are supposedly the hub. After a few cockle-warming speeches and feeling awfully sorry for Israel and disgusted by its detractors everybody goes home feeling they’ve done a good deed and gone out of their way to do their bit for Israel. Of course, the Israelis themselves couldn’t give a monkeys and they happen to think that we’re more into Christmas than Chanukah. The biggest elephant nowhere near the tent remains Israel’s inexorable slide towards a racist theocracy which continues unabated but trust these guys to see the enemies anywhere but staring in their face.
Anyhow, if pro Israelis unite on anything the nay-sayers of Stamford Hill must have a contrary position and so they have. A bit late but this is Stamford Hill after all. In the notice above we are exhorted to stay away from such events, which may only be referred to by its acronym, and told that anyone who has ‘a brain in his coconut’ will know that they bring no good to the Jews. Not, surprise, on tznius grounds, but apparently because this non-event of an event of which other than some bickering machers few have heard of could jeopardise and endanger our very existence in this country. (As for wholesale reliance on state handouts, I’m afraid the notice is silent on that point.) And if not for the notice we would of course have been flocking to it in droves.
The signatories are mostly Satmar affiliated though for reasons known only to themselves Padwa and Halpern Snr added their names. Belz and Ger steered clear as did Dayan Dunner despite his anti-Zionist streak. Also absent are Halpern’s sons and in fact there are no Golders Green rabbis at all who generally lead a more nationalistic flock. This is the second time Padwa has alligned himself with the loonies on Israel; last year he signed for a demo at the embassy on grave digging. Rabbi Schneebalg of Manchester has more sense and knowing that he serves a wider community, abstained. Shame Padwa didn’t inherit those aspects from his father who would have no truck with any of this.
Perhaps the most surprising signatory is Dayan Gukovitsky of Springfield Shul which is affiliated to the Federation. It may have something to do with his territorial battle over his shul and wanting to gain some right-wing allies which he is sorely in need of, but more on that another time.
A Call from the Rabonim
In light of reports of various meetings (BTFI) across England (currently in Manchester), it is obvious to anyone sensible that such activities and their like are of no benefit to Jews, God forbid.
It is unnecessary to dwell on their inherent dangers and it is incumbent on everyone to avoid attending them and to do everything to publicise and announce that these meetings do not speak on behalf of Jews who believe in God and His Torah. God forbid to allow this destruction to enter England where thank God we dwell under the protection of the state, may its grace be exalted*, which is a benign realm.
We are obligated to pray for the well being of the realm and not to become involved with various people [groups] the majority of whom have cast off the yoke of Torah and mitzvos entirely or in various degrees, and their habit is to maraud and cause destruction.
In the merit of undertaking upon ourselves the yoke of our exile and behaving with humility in this country as we have in each and every generation throughout the thousands of years of our exile may we merit to be saved from all forms of peril and to the arrival of the Messiah speedily in our days, Amen.
London [27 November 2011]**
* An expression used for the Tsar and Kaiser and is not used very often nowadays.
** The date of the Manchester Big Tent event though the notice was publicised only last week.
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
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.
These show YHS to be well above the national average and very high across the board.
Who is teaching the children?
The number of qualified teachers is astoundingly low and the pupil to teacher ratio relates to qualified teachers only.
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.
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.
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)
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?