Good morning, and thank you for inviting me. I’d like also to take this opportunity to say thank you for all your dedication and incredible hard work in leading the excellent Jewish schools with which our community is blessed. As you have just heard, I am Jonathan Goldstein and I have the pleasure of chairing Partnerships for Jewish Schools, or PaJeS, a new organisation offering services, support and strategy for Jewish schools across the UK. Just a brief word about myself, so that you can see my personal connections and commitment. I was until recently the Chair of Governors at Kerem School and my daughter is currently a pupil at Immanuel College while my son is in Israel this year on his gap year. I am a graduate of Ilford Jewish Primary School and in my professional life, having trained as a lawyer. I now work alongside Gerald Ronson, whom many of you will know as a strong supporter of Jewish schools across the world.
Many of you will already know about PaJeS’ work and know that we grew out of the Commission on the Future of Jewish Schools set up by the Jewish Leadership Council. In the initial report, interestingly, it was felt that there were already enough agencies dealing with Jewish schools and there may not be need for another. Since then we have had the phenomenon of an ever increasing number of school places while the synagogue organisations and organisations like UJIA have refocused their work away from schools. So it seemed to make sense to create something new to respond to changing needs and changed environments, particularly with the emergence of free schools and academies and the impact this has had on local authority support services. Let’s be clear: we are not setting out to do everything for everybody. We operate on a fairly small budget and are committed to being driven by the current – and future – needs of schools. We are absolutely clear that we do not want to duplicate the work being done by others, especially the Board of Deputies and school membership organisations like Najos.
Where we believe we have a role to play is in offering services that help resource and improve the Jewishness and the smooth running of our schools. That is why we were delighted, for example, to be able to integrate the running and financing of the Jewish Curriculum Partnership. Many of you also already use the purchasing services offered through the JLC by Marshall Hoffman. A number of you will have attended the conference on SEN legislation we held earlier in the year. And I think all the London primary Heads here have recently kindly agreed to help us map future provision through the sibling data survey we are currently organising. So you will see, I hope, that our services are timely and relevant and the questions we are asking, like on standards in Jewish Studies or how to improve the workforce, are challenging and practical.
You might of course be wondering why all this has fallen into the JLC’s lap or, to be more accurate, why the JLC felt the need to step up to the plate and invest in support for Jewish schools. The JLC’s role is about helping build the structures to respond to the differing needs of all sectors of the community and, as in the case of PaJeS, nurture new organisations during their early years till they can stand on their own feet. It is important I think to have that kind of far-sighted approach and especially one that recognises in a diverse community you cannot have a ‘one size fits all’ model but you can have economies of scale and that the wise person is halomed mikol adam –one who learns from everybody. PaJeS aims therefore to respond sensitively and appropriately to all schools, whether mainstream, central Orthodox or pluralist or the schools in Stamford Hill.
It is probably important to say a word about our structures and then I want to hand over to you to ask for your help in moving our programme forward so that we can continue to respond to your schools’ needs. We have a small lay Board, made up of people with a passion for Jewish education who already have between them some considerable years of experience in lay roles in the Jewish school world. But we also rely on a professional advisory group to act as a sounding board and to help us to set strategy. That currently includes six Headteachers and we are looking for more if any of you would like to volunteer. It also includes representatives from existing organisations and part of the work of Alastair Falk, our Executive Director, is to ensure that he listens to voices from all sides of the community and all types of Jewish schools. So this year, for example, as part of our commitment to supporting growth and change, we have been able to provide funding for educational projects (although we are not primarily a grant making body) to schools as diverse as Side by Side, the Hasmonean, the new free schools in Leeds and South London and, of course, all those served by the JCP.
I want to take a break here and ask for your help. You will all already have seen these postcards, which sum up the six key areas of our involvement this year. Later, Alastair and I will happily take questions on any aspects of this year’s programme. But now I’d like to ask you to help us identify the areas you think we should be looking at as we move forward. Just a reminder, this is not about promising sums of money. Our role is to ask the tough questions, offer the support where we can, help schools think strategically and where we can, where necessary, help schools access Foundation or communal funds. It is true that our long term aim includes raising a substantial innovation fund sum for all Jewish schools but we’re not there yet.
In discussion now I’d like you to identify the three key pressing issues you think we should be looking at and offering support for next.
They may be curriculum based – either a subject area like Hebrew reading or an approach like integrating Jewish and general studies or a key stage like Early Years. We are assuming that teacher training and CPD remain constant needs. But should we doing more, for example, to help schools respond to special needs, and is that just in Jewish studies or beyond? Should we be helping schools find more concrete collaborative structures by working more formally in clusters? Should we be offering more services directly for Headteachers?
Looking at the headings of services, support and strategy, in each case consider what PaJeS could offer your school. Please share your ideas so you can help move our work forward for your benefit and for the benefit of the children in our schools.