New report shows the number of Jewish children at Jewish schools is at an all-time high

The number of Jewish children in Jewish schools has almost doubled since the mid-1990s, rising from 16,700 then to more 30,000 now, while the number of Jewish schools has jumped from 62 to 139 over the same period.

These are some of the key findings from a report published this week, entitled The Rise and rise of Jewish School in the United Kingdom co-authored by JPR researchers Dr Daniel Staetsky and Dr Jonathan Boyd. It is the first in a series of studies being produced by the new partnership between the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, cooperating on the collection, analysis and publication of key community statistics.

The researchers found that more than half of the Jewish school population is now attending haredi (strictly Orthodox) schools; there are three times as many haredi schools as there were 20 years ago; four in 10 mainstream Jewish children now study in Jewish schools compared with a quarter 20 years ago; nationally, around 15 per cent of pupils studying in mainstream Jewish schools in the UK are not Jewish and Jewish enrolment in Jewish schools outside London is down 23 per cent.

The results of the survey show that the majority of the 30,900 Jewish children studying in Jewish schools in 2014/15 were in haredi schools 17,500, or 57%), whilst the remainder (13,400, or 43%) were in mainstream schools. Twenty years ago, the equivalent proportions were 45% strictly Orthodox, 55% mainstream. The shifting balance provides further evidence of the changing composition of the British Jewish community.

The growth in the haredi sector is particularly striking. There are three times as many haredi schools in the UK today as there were twenty years ago, educating 10,000 more children between them.

However, the overall increase in enrolment is not exclusively due to the growth of the haredi population. A significant part of the upsurge can also be explained by developments in the non-haredi or ‘mainstream’ sector.

More than four out of ten mainstream Jewish school-age children are now studying in Jewish schools, compared with just a quarter twenty years ago. In numerical terms, that constitutes an increase of over 4,000 children. To accommodate this increase, there are 11 more Jewish schools operating in the mainstream sector than there were in the mid-1990s. Collectively, about 85% of all pupils studying in them are Jewish.

From a geographical perspective, Jewish pupil enrolment in mainstream schools in London and the surrounding areas has been growing steadily over the past twenty years, increasing by 72% since the mid-1990s. By contrast, Jewish pupil enrolment in mainstream Jewish schools outside of London has declined by 23% over the same period. In short, the mainstream Jewish school sector has become increasingly London-centric.

The geographical dynamics are very different in the haredi sector. Whilst the majority of pupils in the strictly Orthodox sector are still attending schools in London, the number in Manchester has more than trebled over the past twenty years, and the city has increased its share of haredi pupils from one in five to one in four of the total. Thus, numbers in the haredi school sector reveal a shift towards Manchester.

Co-author of the report and Executive Director of JPR, Dr Jonathan Boyd said:

“The growth of the British Jewish school sector over time is nothing short of extraordinary. The reasons why it has happened need to be much better understood, not only for the sake of our own community, but also because many other diaspora communities can learn from the British example.”

“The dramatic growth has many implications. Most importantly, more schools and more pupils mean that more teachers need to be recruited, trained and retained. The importance of quality as well as quantity is paramount if these schools are going to continue to flourish.”

“Credit needs to be given to the leadership of the Board of Deputies of British Jews for having the vision to ensure that this statistical work continues to be carried out. Such data play an essential role in informing communal policy, and making decisions about where and whether to build new Jewish schools or close down existing ones.”

Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Gillian Merron, said:

“The continuing growth in demand for Jewish school places is a huge and well-earned ‘vote of confidence’ in our community’s excellent schools, which provide an outstanding education alongside a positive Jewish ethos.

“Research of this kind supports the Board of Deputies’ policy work with Government, Jewish schools, different faith groups and the wider education sector on ensuring the best outcomes for our community.

“We would like to thank our research partners at JPR for their hard work and professionalism on this report, and we look forward to our upcoming joint reports on synagogue membership and births, deaths and marriages, due out in 2017.”

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