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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by papinian » Wed May 21, 2014 11:29 pm

Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) slaps down Wandsworth Council spokesman regarding incorrect statements made on this thread re Mosaic Jewish Primary School admission arrangements.

The following was sent to me today by email after I brought this thread and Wandsworth Council's statement to the attention of the OSA:
As you have set out below, the adjudicator concluded following her consideration of the objection and further to a meeting with relevant parties that she did not have jurisdiction to consider the objection as the admission arrangements of the school for September 2014 had not been properly determined.
I am grateful to you for bringing this matter to the attention of the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA). I hope you will understand it would not be appropriate for me to ask the local authority to retract the statement which you say was posted on a prominent local website. I do intend writing to Mr Masson-Smith at the local authority to re-state the OSA's position on this matter.

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by Wandsworth Council » Fri May 16, 2014 1:46 pm

Parents in the Earlsfield area whose children have not yet been offered a school place, or who do not wish to take up the place they have been offered at the Mosaic free school, are to be offered a place at Smallwood primary school.

The council has reached agreement with the headteacher and governors at Smallwood that an additional class for up to 30 pupils will be provided this September.

Letters informing parents of the offers are being sent out today (Friday).

This year the council received primary school applications from 3,224 Wandsworth residents - an increase of 136 (4.4 per cent) compared to last year. All the primary schools in the area were heavily oversubscribed and this was particularly true at Earlsfield primary school, which received 334 applications for just 60 places.

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by dandelion53 » Mon May 12, 2014 2:54 pm

I thought those following this thread might find this story interesting. ... chool.html

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by Honeybee » Fri May 09, 2014 11:06 am

In that case, EarlsfieldDad, I am all for debate and I agree that, based on the extract you have provided, you could argue a breach of that provision of the ECHR. But I think there could be a counterargument on the part of the government/council/school that they are respecting your right to ensure your children's education is in conformity with your religious and philosophical convictions if they didn't make certain of the 'faith' elements of the school compulsory.

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by EarlsfieldDad » Fri May 09, 2014 10:56 am

Thanks Honeybee. Agree with all your points. And I'm not to trying to suggest any formal route be taken by anyone using this. I was more just highlighting that this thread has shown a wide range of opinion on this subject, and for parents that are more uncomfortable than others about it, it may be helpful to know that there is guidance out there that supports their view.

Thankfully in this instance the council seems to listening to the views of their residents and helping resolve it. But this is still a relevant issue for future generations and for me needs some further consideration, probably at a central Government level, to prevent this issue arising for other families as more Free Schools are created across the country.

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by Honeybee » Fri May 09, 2014 9:30 am

This has been a really interesting thread to follow. I feel for the families involved and agree with previous posters that somewhere along the line there seems to have been a real failure in assessing the demand for this new free school.

I'd just note a couple of points, though.

Firstly, EarlsfieldDad, I am no human rights specialist, and I don't know whether you are raising article 2 of the ECHR simply as a matter of debate, but I don't think any attempt to pursue that argument through the legal route is going to be productive in any way. Even if you won your case, it wouldn't help your kids (for secondary school, maybe!) and any case like this would surely be using taxpayers' money which could otherwise be spent providing more school places.

In my opinion, the most productive and proactive solution would be to make some of the 'faith' elements of the school optional. I was thinking about what my reaction would be if I were offered this school. I practise another faith but would not in principle object to my children attending a Jewish school. I would, however, think it slightly odd that they would be forced to learn Hebrew, for example. I am all for learning languages, but I would prefer my children to learn another more widely used language, say Spanish, as their second language. Couldn't the Hebrew classes be offered as an after school club since it seems a minority of the children attending the school would use Hebrew?

It would be a real pity for this school to 'fail' and I think what it really needs to do is to prove itself academically, so that there is real demand for places at the school. That in turn would, hopefully, encourage more applications from children who live in Roehampton and the surrounding areas, and free up places in other parts of Wandsworth. For me personally, the massive deterrent would be the distance and the lack of good transport links. It needs to be a real local option for children living nearby and not a school that people who haven't been allocated a place elsewhere get sent to. In my opinion, Mosaic primary school needs to work hard to try to attract the local families and needs to start doing 'market research' now to try to see what they need to do in order to do so.

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by EarlsfieldDad » Thu May 08, 2014 11:40 pm

I agree with the last couple of posts - the more I learn about the rules under which new schools can be created, the more I feel the root of this issue lies with Michael Gove rather than Wandsworth Council. That said, it also appears that Wandsworth Council were alert to the risk that there may not be much demand for this school yet put up no resistance or push back to the DfE and have allowed capacity at this school to increase rather than limit or reduce it.

I would also highlight one other thing i have learned from web research tonight, relating to the human rights act where Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights states..... "No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and teaching, the state shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."

Surely therefore offering / forcing families to attend a faith school that is not their faith is in contravention of this - would others agree?

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by Astolat » Thu May 08, 2014 1:14 pm

Based on Dandelion's point I almost pity Wandsworth council - obviously they have to jump eagerly on any and all people who get central government permission to open a school and also to expand every school they can. No wonder they have so clearly fudged the decision.

It is a ludicrously disconnected policy:
a) legally obliged to provide a school place
b) not allowed to open new schools

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by dandelion53 » Thu May 08, 2014 10:46 am

This situation is extremely frustrating and unfair for those involved. Mosaic was approved as a 1 form entry faith free school directly by central government. They proved a demand for a small specialist school and under the Academies Act 2010 they set up Mosaic. It has now been expanded to 2 form entry to ease pressure on places locally.

I think anger about this is misdirected towards Wandsworth LEA. My understanding is that they have absolutely no power to set up a new school anymore as this was removed by the Academies Act 2010. All new schools have to be free schools approved centrally and LEAs are no longer able to open schools. They can merely encourage other groups to open them. Therefore if they are faced with a shortfall of places all they can do is expand existing schools. And in this borough, there are few schools that haven't already been expanded or have the space to do so.

If Wandsworth has a building that they can use for a new school but no power to open a school in it. They have to place a school in it that central government have approved.

This is what many people do not realise about the Academies Act that the current government passed. Schools are being removed from LEA control by being converted to academies so they receive funding centrally. New schools are free schools and therefore also academies that receive funding centrally. This leaves LEAs little power to deal with the demand for places in their local area.

Anger at the situation should be directed towards Mr Gove and his free school ideology. And, in my opinion, the continuing existence of faith schools of any denomination. Mr Gove says that free schools give parental choice and power but clearly they only do to the few who are listened to. There aren't enough schools for real choice. Therefore faith schools are a luxury that we shouldn't tolerate in my opinion.

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by papinian » Thu May 08, 2014 2:01 am

Further to my earlier message above responding to the misleading posting by Wandsworth Council, I think of interest to many people following this thread will be the following report produced by the Director of Children’s Services of Wandsworth Council in April 2013 in relation to the establishment of Mosaic (then called the South London Jewish Primary (Free) School.) ... 202013.pdf

Paragraph 15 of the report makes particularly interesting reading:
It is difficult to predict how the South London Jewish Primary School will affect demand for places in the area. It may help to reduce the pressure on primary places, with up to 15 places available for children of other faiths or no faith. However, as 50% of the pupils will be Jewish, the school may draw from a catchment that extends some way beyond Wandsworth as the
local Jewish population is relatively small (according to the 2011 Census, a
total of 1,600 people in the Borough as a whole). In their meeting with the
Council’s Academies and Free Schools Commission in December 2011,
the proposers acknowledged there is a less prominent Jewish community
in South London but nevertheless were able to show in their free school
application to the DfE that there is demand from at least 99 families for
September 2013 entry and 87 families for September 2014 entry.
Clearly the 99 families and 87 families referred to have not materialised, as hardly 20 places were filled in 2013 and 2014 by parents who had expressed a preference for Mosaic.

In the context of the population of Wandsworth it's worth noting that there are 1,600 Jewish people per the 2011 census. Assuming that the age distribution of those 1,600 is the same as for Wandsworth as a whole, 8% of that 1,600 would be of primary school age, i.e. 128 children. So even if every Jewish child in Wandsworth went to Mosaic that wouldn't come close to making the school viable in terms of numbers when admitting 30 children a year, never mind the 60 that is now proposed.

A further report was produced by the Director of Children’s Services in June 2013 recommending the sale to Mosaic of the Council owned property Hartfield House on Roehampton Lane to be a permanent site for Mosaic, ending the use of the property as the sole respite care facility within Wandsworth borough for people with learning disabilities. ... 13-349.pdf

Included with that June 2013 report is an Equality Impact Assessment, as required by law ... ix%202.pdf

Some of what is in that Equality Impact Assessment is a telling example of how decisions by the Director of Children's Services has impacted on the availability of primary school places discussed on this thread.

Selected extracts:
It is proposed to dispose of the Council’s freehold interest in Hartfield House, a former Social Services facility, to the South London Jewish Primary School, the sale to be funded by the Education Funding Agency (EFA). The school will be a 4-11, non-denominational two-form entry free school on the site.
If anyone reading this can work out what the Director of Children's Services is calling Mosaic a non-denominational school in the above quote, please let me know. The clue to the fact that it is Jewish might be in the title of the school!
The South London Jewish Primary School proposal has been modified to a 2FE [i.e. 60 pupils per year] school rather than 1FE [i.e. 30 pupils per year], with up to half the pupils of the Jewish faith. Given the overall pressure on primary places in the borough and the fact that Jewish pupils may come from further afield, it is reasonable to expect that the school will near capacity.

Here we get close to the heart of how Wandsworth Council is dealing with this. Mosaic will be full because there is pressure on primary school places, and that will force children into attending the school because they cannot get a place elsewhere. At 60 pupils a year, the school is full at 420 pupils and, as noted above, even if every Jewish child in Wandsworth (from as far afield as Furzedown and Battersea - and remember, were are talking primary school here so most children will need to be accompanied on the journey) went to Mosaic that would still amount to only 128 pupils.

There is a similar sentence in the June 2013 report itself:
The Director also notes that 50% of the places to be provided by the Disposal of Hartfield House new school would be non-denominational in the context of a pressing need for additional primary places in the area.
Of course, 50% of the places are not non-denominational in that children attend a non-denominational school. All of the children who go to Mosaic go to a Jewish school - and one that doesn't even follow the guidelines re opting out of religious observance that are it should be following.
The LA maintained primary schools currently in these wards had a combined roll count of 1455 children in total, with an over representation of Black pupils compared to the average for primary schools in the borough. The
South London Jewish School admissions policy does not discriminate in relation to particular racial or ethnic groups and its intake is therefore likely to reflect the profile of the local area and of the South London Jewish
Given that the average percentage of white pupils across the five state primary schools closest to the Hartfield House site is under 40%, below the Wandsworth average. TI can say with certainty that the South London Jewish community is more than 40% white. Saying that the intake of Mosaic is "likely to reflect the profile of the local area and of the South London Jewish community" is a contradiction in terms and an exercise in dissimulation. It's impossible for the profile for the profile of the intake to reflect both the profile of the local area and the profile of the South London Jewish community because those profiles are completely different.

There is nothing in anything that the Director of Education Services has written that considers whether any non-Jewish families would wish their children to attend a Jewish school. Instead, the assumption is that as 50% of the places are assigned without giving preference to Jewish children, non-Jewish children will take up those 50% of places.

I leave you with these numbers from the 2011 census for Wandsworth and the figures for faith primary school places published by Wandsworth Council:

Christian 162,590 - 613 faith school places (1 faith school place for every 265 people of the Christian faith)

Muslim: 24,746 - 60 faith school places (1 faith school place for every 412 people of the Muslim faith)

Jewish: 1,617 - 60 faith school places at Mosaic (1 faith school place for every 27 people of the Jewish faith)

It was obvious to anyone, except apparently the Director of Children's Services at Wandsworth Council, that for Mosaic to be full, even at 30 pupil a year entry, never mind the 60 pupil a year entry now intended, it would have to attract lots of non-Jewish pupils. Yet there was no discussion about whether this would happen.

There are some Jewish state schools that attract non-Jewish pupils but only (i) at secondary level, not primary level, (ii) where the Jewish school is well established with a strong academic record, and (iii) where alternative secondary schools have poor educational outcomes. There was no evidence to suggest that Mosaic would attract non-Jewish families, but the Director of Children's Services ignores that. It is clear from what is written in the report is that the intention is that the places in Mosaic will be filled by non-Jewish children forced to attend it because there are not places available at other state primaries, exactly what we have seen happening this year.

I am disgusted that given this abject failure by Wandsworth Council's Director of Children's Services, a spokesperson for Wandsworth Council would come on this thread and instead of apologising for the failure, lie about the outcome of a statutory process in relation to the complaint made about Mosaic's admission procedures.

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by supergirl » Wed May 07, 2014 4:53 pm

I ve been following this thread with great interest i must admit, fascinating attitude from Wandsworth Council expecting parents who didn't put any faith schools in their application to accept a place at a Jewish School... How can they even justify that??????

Surely there is enough material to formally ask the council to answer the question or for a lawsuit in the style of american class action?

If I was in the situation of some parents I would definitively investigate the possibility. At the end of the day, the council has to provide every school age child with a school place but it is a human right breach to force anyone into a faith that they don't have.

@wandsworth council: thank you for posting on this thread but as far as i am concerned you haven't answered the question. Are you going to provide these parents with a different school place prior to the start in September? I am a tax payer AND a Wandsworth Resident, I would like answers. Thanks.

Good luck to all, this is a truly awful situation to be in. And for the record I am from a catholic family and I am one myself and I refuse to put my kids in any faith schools. My opinion is that faith shouldn't be practiced at school.

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by papinian » Wed May 07, 2014 3:31 pm

Wandsworth Council wrote:It has been alleged on this forum that the school’s admission policy is in some way unlawful. This is incorrect.

Earlier this year one member of the public complained to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator that Mosaic’s admissions criteria were unlawful. The Chief Adjudicator, who is completely independent, looked at this issue and did not uphold the complaint.
Unfortunately, again we see that the Wandsworth Council media machine tries to mislead the public about school admissions.

As I have already noted in this thread, the Office of the Schools Adjudicator was not able to decide on the complaint made last year (not "earlier this year") because Mosaic had failed to adopt determined admission arrangements in accordance with the rules. In other words, in 2013 Wandsworth Council allowed Mosaic to using selective admission rules in applications procedures without having checked that they had been properly adopted. (Another failure by Wandsworth Council, but hardly a surprise there.)

It is misleading to say that the Office of the Schools Adjudicator did not uphold the complaint when the Office of the Schools Adjudicator was not (as a result of a failure by Mosaic) even able to consider the complaint.

The following is an extract from the statement made by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator in relation to the complaint:

"[D]uring her investigations the adjudicator was concerned as to whether the arrangements had been properly determined. It became clear during the meeting that the requirements for determination had not been met.

In such circumstances it is not possible for an objection to the arrangements
to be considered formally as an adjudicator has no jurisdiction under either
section 88H or section 88I of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998
and therefore she cannot make a decision and issue a written determination.

Following discussions at the meeting, the governing body will consider its
admission arrangements and will determine and published its arrangements so that they are available on the school’s website.

I am copying this letter to the school, Wandsworth local authority and the
Jewish Community Day School Advisory Board."

It is interesting that Wandsworth Council has someone from its media office making statements posting on this thread saying that Mosaic's admission arrangements are not unlawful when the council has not taken any legal advice on the point and, although the council had the opportunity to respond to the complaint when made last year, failed to do so.

I look forward to see what Wandsworth Council's media office will have to say when the complaint is upheld when refiled last this year (now that Mosaic has determined its admission arrangements)!

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by Wandsworth Council » Wed May 07, 2014 2:18 pm

It has been alleged on this forum that the school’s admission policy is in some way unlawful. This is incorrect.

Earlier this year one member of the public complained to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator that Mosaic’s admissions criteria were unlawful. The Chief Adjudicator, who is completely independent, looked at this issue and did not uphold the complaint.

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by EarlsfieldDad » Tue May 06, 2014 10:56 pm

Hello all
As the originator of this post I wanted to jump in to add a few observations of my own, in part to try and encourage this debate to come to reach some sort of “conclusion”.

I have watched with interested as the conversation has developed, you might say snowballed. I was never expecting quite this level of reaction. If this post has achieved only one thing it is to highlight to Wandsworth Council that the subject of faith and schools is a highly emotive subject and I would suggest that any plans they have to use this school to plug a gap in supply/demand in future years needs to be thoroughly [re]considered to prevent this debate occurring every year. I am fully supportive of faith schools where they are demanded by local parents – the issue here is that we probably have the first example of a faith free school that simply does not appear to have demand from the local community, so I remain mystified as to how/why it was created in this area. If the council wishes to offer a broad range of educational opportunities, that should be encouraged, but surely do it in an area where there will be sufficient demand for it.

We have seen a healthy mix of opinions from non-Jewish parents who are both happy and unhappy to be immersed in the Jewish values of the school. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However just because one non-Jewish family is happy to send their child to Mosaic doesn’t mean that all other parents should feel the same. Ultimately if a parent does not wish to send their child to a faith school, I personally think it is wrong to FORCE a child to attend one. This feels like a loophole in the schools system that needs to be considered at the highest level.

The other key issue here is location. Putting the faith issue to one side, it is simply impractical for a lot of parents in the Earlsfield area to be able to commute to the school. A commute of probably an hour in rush hour via combinations of trains and buses is not fair on parents, and more importantly not fair on children. There has been discussion on here about the prospect of the school arranging for example a school bus but I personally would not be comfortable putting a 4/5 year old on a school bus.

On a more positive note, one interesting thing that has come from this is the fact that no-one is doubting the quality of education offered at the school. Saying that however, I find it very sad that a school that is clearly receiving a significant level of investment our tax payer money should be the focus of so much discussion. If this school were in a non-faith school and in a more accessible position in Wandsworth, I expect it would be flooded by applications.

And one other positive thing I would add is how pleased I have been to gain the support of our local MP, Sadiq Khan. In my experience of trading emails/letters over recent weeks is that he has been nothing but prompt and proactive in asking the same questions of the council, which I never expected of someone who must be very busy, so we should all feel encouraged that our local MP is so accessible and engaging. Very refreshing.

So, overall however I am encouraged that Wandsworth Council is prepared to listen to the voice of its local residents, esp in this forum. Creating a voice was all I aimed to achieve originally, so I thank everyone for contributing their views and support to the subject. I will reserve full judgement however until I see the outcome of the Councils plans to create more capacity – hopefully this will be done in a constructive way where by children are allocated places in their actual local school, rather than push the problem around and offer them places at schools which are large distances from where they live. So, Wandsworth Council, over to you. Please don’t disappoint us.

Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

by papinian » Tue May 06, 2014 9:57 pm

gridgirl: I see you are a first time poster. You may some pretty robust statements in your post ("To me some of the comments on here are rather ignorant"; "Your facts though are somewhat limited") but you don't back them up at all.

Neither myself nor anyone else on this thread has suggested at all that there is a concern about non-Jewish children being converted to Judaism.

To repeat myself yet again, the issues raised on this thread re Mosaic are:
(1) The uniform requirement that requires boys to wear a skullcap, which is essentially religious dress worn for religious purposes (very obvious that religious purpose, since it's only worn for part of the day).
(2) The packed lunches being limited to vegetarian food. Again, religious issue.
These are the FACTS, as already knowledged by parents at Mosaic on this thread.

In terms of what the law says: the uniform requirement is contrary to legislation and Dept of Education guidelines; the packed lunches requirement is not contrary to anything but many people would find it undesirable. I think the uniform requirement is outrageous. In fairness on the packed lunches requirement one of the parents has explained that it is only while the school is housed temporarily in Wimbledon synagogue and that at the school's new site there will be Kosher food, including meat, available. I'm far from a carnivore and probably we should all eat less meat for the good of the world and I understand why its needed, but it would still put me off a lot.

There are other reasons for not sending a child to Mosaic. For example, the time spent teaching Hebrew. If you're not Jewish it's a fairly useless language from a practical perspective. (I say this as someone who speaks a language than fewer than 100,000 people speak and whose wife's family speak a language that fewer than 500,000 people speak so I have nothing against lesser-used languages.) Prospective parents may legitimately feel that their children's time could be spent on more useful things, including more useful languages.

Mosaic has admission rules that are not faith-based but are based around being culturally Jewish or having attended a particular private nursery. Such rules are unlawful but despite this being brought to the school's attention the school hasn't changed it. Later this year the rules will be challenged and the school end up having to change them and there will be negative publicity but the blooded-mindedness of those involved in Mosaic is such that they won't sort it out now. This country provides for faith-based state schools - it does not provide for schools that give preference on ethnic grounds. I find it troubling that five years after the UK supreme court found that the Jewish Free School in north London was practising racial discrimination in admissions Jewish schools are still playing fast and loose with the rules.