In the first six months of 2013, nearly 23,000 visitors used our Find a Jewish School website to locate school places for their children in the UK. An article in the Jewish press about foundation stones at King David School in Liverpool, created a spike of interest in Jewish schools in the city, but interest from parents in other schools – throughout the UK- has been consistently high this year. A quick look at the statistics shows that the top six non- UK countries with visitors to the site were Israel, USA, Australia, France, Germany and New Zealand, reflecting the international status of London in particular and the UK in general as a relocation hub.
We may have to wait until Michael Gove’s memoirs to find out the real reason, but everyone meanwhile is claiming the victory over Ivrit in primary schools. In truth, it was a campaign that built on everyone’s talents and expertise and at first, had all seemed so simple. Hebrew is an integral and essential part of the ethos of the Jewish schools of which Mr Gove is such an avid supporter. It is already timetabled and embedded in our primary schools, taught by specialists, and well supported and resourced. In addition, most pupils from Jewish primary schools continue to Jewish secondary schools, where Ivrit is a compulsory subject, allowing for continuity into Key Stage 3. In short, it seemed like it could be a shining example for how to introduce language teaching into primary schools. And this is what we explained in our response, together with the argument that offering a language additional to Ivrit could have a negative effect on finances, resources, staffing and timetabling for Jewish primary schools, and would be likely to impact adversely on Ivrit provision and pupil attainment. In short, we seemed to tick all the boxes.
Some 60 teachers attended PaJeS' Third Annual Ivrit Teachers’ Conference on June 18th. The event included contributions from local experts in modern foreign language teaching and as a thought provoking finale, a talk from Mrs Zahava Taub, who in addition to being a world class educator is also the wife of the current Israeli Ambassador.
The conference came shortly after a series of consultations on Israel education, organised though JPR and the Pears Foundation, and run by the Makom organisation in Jerusalem. It seems indeed that Ivrit and Israel education are hot topics at the moment, not just in the UK. I recently had conversations with Jewish schools in South Africa, where numbers taking Ivrit to the highest levels are under pressure from changes in University requirements. Samantha Benson, PaJeS’ Ivrit Curriculum Leader, participated recently in a seminar in Paris, for teachers across Europe who are looking for new methods for teaching Ivrit. There seems to be an interesting paradox here.