Pupil numbers rise in Orthodox schools, new JPR report shows

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Pupil numbers rise in Orthodox schools, new JPR report shows

Jewish pupils in strictly Orthodox schools now represent 60 per cent of all Jewish pupils in Jewish schools, compared to 45 per cent in the mid-1990s, the report said

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

A new report into Jewish schools in Britain shows that while there are more pupils overall, the numbers have climbed in the strictly Orthodox sector compared with mainstream Jewish education.

JPR — the Institute for Jewish Policy Research — has issued its latest bulletin, which helps to shape the future of the Jewish community, allowing for planning of resources.

The new report — based on schools registered with the Department of Education — indicates that although numbers have climbed consistently since the mid-1950s, when there were very few dedicated Jewish schools in Britain — the numbers of Jewish pupils in mainstream Jewish schools in the UK has begun to flatten

Growth rates, says the JPR, have slowed down in recent years, particularly in mainstream schools. In contrast, despite a small decline in growth rate in the strictly Orthodox sector, “Jewish pupils in strictly Orthodox schools now represent 60 per cent of all Jewish pupils in Jewish schools, compared to 45 per cent in the mid-1990s”.

The JPR report looks at 133 Jewish schools through Britain, with the largest number in London, followed by Manchester, whose schools represent 27 per cent to 29 per cent of the total. But the authors warn that the numbers in the strictly Orthodox sector are likely to be higher since many students attend yeshivot which are not registered with the Department of Education.

In the academic year 2020-2021, the JPR finds that 35,825 Jewish pupils were studying in 133 Jewish schools in Britain. This represents an increase of 1,612 pupils, or 4.7 per cent, since 2017/18.

Sixty per cent of Jewish pupils in Jewish schools are in strictly Orthodox schools, while 40 per cent attend mainstream Jewish schools.

The 133 Jewish schools in the 2020/21 academic year include 44 mainstream Jewish schools and 89 strictly Orthodox schools. In the mainstream Jewish sector, there are 33 primary schools, nine secondary schools and two schools that comprise both educational stages. In the strictly Orthodox sector, there are 36 primary schools, 20 secondary schools and 33 schools that span both educational stages.

The survey takes in both primary and secondary schools. Although overall there has been growth in the numbers of both primary and secondary school pupils since 2017/18, numbers of primary school pupils in mainstream Jewish schools have fallen over the last two academic years.

Dr Jonathan Boyd, executive director of JPR, said: “These new findings are already playing an important role in helping community leaders to plan the future of Jewish education in this country. The clear slowdown in growth in the mainstream sector, particularly at primary level, urgently needs to be understood to ensure that all Jewish children who wish to be educated within the Jewish school system continue to be offered that opportunity.”

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