Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

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Chelsey73
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby Chelsey73 » Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:07 pm

Dear Earlsfield Parents

I am a Southfields parent with a son in reception at Mosaic Primary school in Wimbledon. Somebody brought this thread to my attention. As my child is currently at the school, I hoped it might be helpful if I posted a response. I have read the posts regarding admissions into your local primary schools this year and I have huge sympathy with the experience you are having. We had exactly the same heartwrenching situation last year, my son had attended nursery in our local school Sheringdale but failed to secure a place at any of our local schools for reception.

It is true that the country as a whole has had a huge spike in birth rates over the last 6 years and successive governments (central and local) have let us down in their planning for our children's education. The situation is, I think, at its most chronic in London boroughs and I feel Wandsworth has let us all down very badly. I therefore applaud your proactive approach. I was involved with a parent body who took similar action last year. I really hope you are successful in your attempts to challenge local authority decisions. I agree Wandsworth has made a series of decisions on bulge years in local schools in a very strange manner and which seem focused on making small scale savings relative to overall education budgets.

However, your proactive stance aside, I would like to reassure those who have been offered a place at Mosaic that it is a real gem of a school. We are not a Jewish family and I also intially had my reservations about sending my son to a faith school of any kind given that we are not practising in any faith in our family. I worried about the potential of a cultural clash and wondered if it would be difficult for my son. When I visited the school I was impressed by the small and friendly nature of the school which feels like a family compared to a school like Earlsfield Primary. The Head, Kate Baum was impressive and impassioned about her school and making it a success and it was enough to make me take the leap of faith. As the months have gone by I realise I was right about the Head's passion and her total determination to make Mosaic a success for all the diverse children of the South West London community. The school is very grounded in its Jewish faith but it is also incredibly supportive, open and inclusive. We have just had a wonderful experience of interweaving Easter egg hunts, hot cross bun making and children making an animation film for Passover. Our children at Mosaic, who are at least 50 percent of no faith or other faith are happy in the school, the children feel secure and safe in a smaller school and as a result are learning well.

If a faith school is not for you and importantly not for your child I absolutely agree it is a non-starter. But, in my experience my child is learning to understand and experience the diversity of the city he will grow up in and to respect and embrace a sense of commonality rather than 'otherness' which I hope is something he can carry with him as he grows up.

Good luck with your actions with the local authority, but if you are not successful in your appeals I would encourage you to visit the school before you make any definite decisions, you might be surprised by what you find.

Best of luck to you and your little ones.
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SwallowsandAmazons
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby SwallowsandAmazons » Fri Apr 25, 2014 6:18 pm

Dear Earlsfield Parents

Like others who have posted here, I can empathise with your frustration at not being allocated a local school place and being given a place at a school that was not on your list of choices. If it is important to you that your child attends a secular school or a school of your faith, then being given a place at a faith school or a school of a different faith is not ideally a situation any family should be put in. We are a family of no faith, and my foremost choice would be for my daughter to attend an outstanding secular school in the local area, having lived in the Southfields/Wimbledon area for 23 years. So well done for getting this issue raised and for campaigning for more local school places.

Saying that, my daughter also attends MJPS and we couldn't be happier with this faith school. We visited 10 schools in the locality before making it our first choice. And, my family could not be more impressed with the education on offer to our daughter - both my brother and myself were privately educated in this area - so without wanting to appear elitist, I like to think our standards are quite high. Academic teaching is rigourous but without losing a child's interest. Teaching methods are creative and exciting - our Reception class teaching staff are always thinking of innovative and immersive ways to grab their learners' attention. The school's ultimate ethos is that learning is a life journey as well as being necessary to pass exams. But more than that, the children are well cared for, nurtured and developed in a holistic way and at their own pace.

We are hugely fortunate that the first Reception Class is small and well staffed. Every child is an important individual in the school's eyes, and they are very aware of their learning needs. And wonderfully, the Head Teacher operates an open door policy. Both she and the class teacher are very accessible and open to concerns and suggestions. They bubble with enthusiasm, good humour and passion.

And on the faith front, what I think is an important to know about this school is that it is certainly not evangelical in the way it expects non-Jewish parents to be part of its Jewish religion. Converting to Judaism is actually really hard and you would have to be quite dedicated in this desire. In fact, the very values it promotes are universal to us all - it places a strong emphasis on family, charity and preserving the world. As others have said, the school teaches the children about all faiths and cultures. It encourages children to celebrate what they do at home and tell others about it. There is, of course, Jewish learning and practices integrated throughout the school day, but the children can take from them what they will.

They are introduced to Hebrew in Reception, which I feel can only be beneficial to their developing brains, hearing the rhythms of another language at such an early age. Another global language will be introduced at KS2, as per the National Curriculum. Shabbat is a lovely way for the parents to get together on a Friday with their children, hear about what they have got up to during the week and welcome the weekend in. It is not compulsory to attend and some parents just drop in on an occasional basis where others like to go every week.

Many of us have seen the plans for the new school building in Roehampton and it looks pretty impressive to say the least. The school already has some state of the art IT equipment (electronic microscopes, tablets etc) and it is angling for some cutting edge educational resources and teaching spaces. The school is very aware of transport difficulties for those living further afield and as, mentioned in another post, is looking at ways of aiding parents eg school bus.

As others have said, you are all welcome to come and meet the parents who have posted here and others. We could get a group together so you can ask questions and find out what the school is like from our perspective. We socialise regularly and really help each other out.

I feel really grateful and privileged that my daughter is exposed to all these positive factors at such a young age and look forward to enjoying our last term in Reception.
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SwallowsandAmazons
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby SwallowsandAmazons » Fri Apr 25, 2014 6:45 pm

I'd also just like to add that the school is currently in Queensmere Road, off Wimbledon Parkside and not in Barnes. And also that a school is only as good as a sum of its parts, therefore, like other schools in the area, it is also what we, as parents, make it... ;)
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chelseadad
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby chelseadad » Mon Apr 28, 2014 5:14 pm

I think it is terrible that parents are being coerced to attend schools that have mandatory faith instruction. While I am sure the parents of Mosaic children on these boards are right in saying that it is a good school, if you don't want your child to be educated in a faith, that should be an easy option to follow. Instead we have an avalanche of faith-based and faith-selecting schools coming in, limiting choice and now, being pushed to some extent on uninterested parents. This is not how it should be.
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Mummymummymummy
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby Mummymummymummy » Tue Apr 29, 2014 2:31 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with Chelsea Dad, it's a scandal that religious free schools are being used to plug the gap. I don't doubt that the school is great but I would no more send my children to school in Jewish attire than I would in Muslim or Hindu or any other religious clothing (when as a family we are not religious) Fine to try on and learn about the religion, but it's a completely different thing to make it part of their everyday ware. Likewise for adhering to religious customs, great to try and learn about but not to be imposed as part of your child's lifestyle (again if it's not your religion)

Can children that are being 'sent' there, rather than chosen it, opt out of all religious elements of the education? My understanding is that children have the right not to participate in RE. What of families who adhere very strictly to their own religion, would this not be an affront to them?

I should say, while this doesn't directly affect me, I am outraged on your behalf. We're just over the border in Wimbledon Park and have in fact been offered no school at all. I think we're likely to go down the home education route. The more I look into it, the more enthused I become. If anyone else is looking into it, please get in touch.
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papinian
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby papinian » Sun May 04, 2014 12:50 pm

Mummymummymummy wrote:Can children that are being 'sent' there, rather than chosen it, opt out of all religious elements of the education? My understanding is that children have the right not to participate in RE.
You are correct. However, those involved in running Mosaic Jewish Primary School are adept in giving the run-around to people who have raised these issues.

For example, the admissions criteria for the school were the subject of an investigation last summer by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator. As a result of a technicality - arguing that the admissions criteria it was using had never been formally adopted - the school was able to prevent the Office of the Schools Adjudicator making a formal decision on the criteria. The school spent thousands of pounds (of taxpayer monies!) defending criteria that gave priority to those attending the fee-paying nursery run by one of the governors of the school!

Imagine the uproar in the media if a girl at a Muslim school was told she had to wear a headscarf. Well, at Mosaic Jewish Primary School, as noted above, boys are made to wear a skullcap on Fridays even though that is a religious act and something that should be optional.

Sadly, the response of the school to any criticism has been to scream "anti-semitism" over and over again.
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LauraBrown
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby LauraBrown » Sun May 04, 2014 4:54 pm

Is it really true that all boys have to wear religious items on a Friday even if not Jewish?
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broodje
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby broodje » Sun May 04, 2014 5:08 pm

I think it's an absolute scandal that parents are forced to send children to a religious school and that's sufficient for the council to wash their hands and claim they have provided a statutory school place.

The quality of the school in question is totally irrelevant. There should be sufficient tax-funded places at secular schools and I find it quite shocking that the government feels that there is sufficient demand to fund a free school with 2 reception classes when kids can't get places in their nearest school. Something does not add up. Why did Mosaic go for 2 classes if they quite clearly don't have the right level of demand?

I am actually quite curious what is going to happen with all the extra Jewish holidays when the school is closed? Is the council going to fund childcare arrangements for secular (or other faiths) parents who don't celebrate these? With normal holidays it's a lot easier clearly because there all sorts of clubs that are geared up for that.

I don't think the school can actually force anyone to adhere to the religious rules such as wearing the skull caps for boys or bringing in vegetarian only lunches,etc. How exactly would it work?

Good luck to all the parents who are fighting for the council to address the issue of lack of school places properly rather than by filling the gaps in a free school that miscalculated demand.
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anootka
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby anootka » Mon May 05, 2014 1:34 am

Hello,
I am a parent at MJPS.
Please be clear no one is made to do anything, but bear in mind this is a faith school. Fact. I agree the situation in Wandsworth is despicable and we fought the council to get into our local school (4 minute walk from our house) and after months of fighting and pleading the only school we had was MJPS. After two terms here not only are we lucky to be here we are grateful that there was a school within Wandsworth that we could go to. Let me ask this question what would happen if there was no Mosaic, I would have to take my 4 year old out of borough?
Also I believe that the current statistics in UK are that half of all of the state schools are faith school, and even "secular" schools observe Christmas/Easter as there is no separation of Church and State (schools).
Please be open minded enough to at least have a chat with parents who were in the same situation as you, who haven't been converted but absolutely love the school and their children are thriving. I live between Earlsfield Primary and Beatrix Potter but didn't get either one so I get the emotions I do. Know this these children have an amazing opportunity to learn about their neighbours and be less prejudiced then their parents. The children at Mosaic are so happy and well settled not to mention the level of education is fantastic.
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papinian
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby papinian » Mon May 05, 2014 2:02 am

anootka: If you are a parent at Mosaic Jewish Primary School then why don't you answer the previous posters questions:
(1) Are non-Jewish boys required to wear a skullcap on Fridays?
(2) Are pupils forbidden from bringing packed lunches that include meat?

Really and truly, Mosaic and its cheerleaders do it no favours by posting here in a way that avoids answering the questions raised?

Also, maybe you should have been upfront in your post about the fact that you are Jewish - as you have said that in previous posts on this site. Frankly, I don't think you can appreciate the position of people who are not Jewish who are effectively being forced to send their children to a Jewish school.

It is pretty ignorant to say to those people "bear in mind this is a faith school. Fact." It's also pretty ignorant to describe those non-Jewish children attending Mosaic as having "an amazing opportunity to learn about their neighbours and be less prejudiced then their parents", implying that all non-Jews are prejudiced.

I note that this guidance from the Government indicates that a requirement for boys to wear a skullcap on Fridays, being a matter of religious observance rather than being a requirement on all pupils at all times as part of a general uniform policy, is in breach of the Equality Act 2010.
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/s ... advice.pdf

You have asked the question as to what would happen if there was no Mosaic Jewish Primary School. Well, here's the answer: Wandsworth Council is legally obliged to provide a place at a state primary school within the borough for all children. Therefore, there would be no question of a parent having to take a child out of the borough.
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papinian
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby papinian » Mon May 05, 2014 2:15 am

Also annotka: Could you confirm what you say on another thread that you are moving back to the U.S. this summer will be moving your children out of Mosaic to a school in the U.S.? Given that you will only have your child in Mosaic for Reception, isn't it easy for you to tell others how lucky they are while you swan off on your way?

Oh for some honesty and candour from Mosaic and its cheerleaders.
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SwallowsandAmazons
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby SwallowsandAmazons » Mon May 05, 2014 7:20 am

Papinian - what do you mean by skullcaps on a Friday? What are you visualising that is worrying you so much?
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SwallowsandAmazons
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby SwallowsandAmazons » Mon May 05, 2014 8:02 am

As I mentioned before I completely agree that no parent should be forced to send their child to a faith school because of lack of school places in Wandsworth. And that the council should be providing more places at secular schools.

But I feel that some of the perceptions of how this particular faith school encourages religious observation are starting to feel exaggerated for me on this thread. I can empathise that the visualisation for parents is probably worse than the practice, if a faith is not your own. And so part of me feels that this thread would not exist if no faith or non-practicing Christian parents had been given places at St Michael's or Our Lady Queen of Heaven (understood that Christianity is the major religion of this country).

I do believe that appreciating how other cultures and religions work is an important part of my child's learning journey as we are now a global society. And this is a great opportunity to do that.

So what I would say is before feeling anxious, just go and visit the school. Find out for yourself. Boys certainly do not wear skull caps all day on a Friday or any other day. Have you ever tried keeping a skull cap on a 4 year old's head?
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papinian
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby papinian » Mon May 05, 2014 9:09 am

SwallowsandAmazons wrote:Boys certainly do not wear skull caps all day on a Friday or any other day. Have you ever tried keeping a skull cap on a 4 year old's head?
Please, please could we have some honesty from you swallowsandamazons. You say "do not wear skull caps ALL DAY". A previous parent posted the following: "yes they use the cap but only on Fridays for the celebration". Neither myself nor anyone else said that boys had to wear skullcaps ALL DAY, but do they have to wear them for PART OF THE DAY on Friday? Why should they if they are not Jewish?

If perceptions "are starting to feel exaggerated" for you then why don't you and other Mosaic cheerleaders be open and honest and say what the school does/doesn't require in terms of uniform, lunches, etc.

As regards St Michael's or Our Lady Queen of Heaven, I do know that they do not have any restrictions on what children can include in packed lunches and they do not have a uniform policy that requires the wearing of religious garb.

Finally, will you dissociate yourself from anookta's ignorant comment: "Know this these children have an amazing opportunity to learn about their neighbours and be less prejudiced then their parents" which comment is offensive to all of us who are not Jewish.
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SwallowsandAmazons
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Re: Calling Earlsfield frustrated parents...

Postby SwallowsandAmazons » Mon May 05, 2014 10:18 am

Papinian - I am totally happy to answer any questions you or any other parents - and all the parents on these threads so far have reiterated this - have regarding the operational practices of the school. If you would like to meet face to face for a coffee, I would be more than happy to. Boys wear skull caps only during prayers, be that Shabbat on a Friday (which lasts about 30 mins), or morning prayers (which last about 10 mins) - they are not 'clipped on' sometimes they fall off, nobody makes a massive deal of it!

Lunches require some level of kosher practice: no meat, no shellfish.

The rest of the time the children wear bog standard uniform - there is no other 'religious garb'!!

It just so happens that common Christian practice does not require the need for 'religious garb' or restricted eating practices, otherwise I am sure these would be required at Christian faith schools. In many Christian traditions the covering of the head is required, but adapted Christian practice does not require this now.

If you went into a mosque for a visit would you not cover your head as per their religious practice?

If my daughter went to a moderate Islamic faith school and was required to wear a head covering during some of the prayers but not for the rest of the day, I personally would not have a problem with that. Furthermore there are plenty of Muslims who do not wear a hijab as part of their daily dress.

I think what needs to be distinguished here is the difference between showing respect for some religious practices and what has been interpreted as a 'dress code' for certain religions? Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all Abrahamic religions and headcovering is an observation they all profess to having during religious worship.

I think it is also important to note a few other things:
there are parents at the school who are culturally Jewish or Israeli but not religiously, so there is not one denomination of Judaism that dominates this school, it is not traditionally orthodox in its religious practice

Our Lady Queen of Heaven does not operate a 50/50 basis as does this school with geographical location being the decider on the 50 open community places. It gets a vast proportion of its income from Wandsworth and yet has a hugely selective admission process.

At no point, have I suggested that other parents on this thread are prejudiced if you read my words correctly. You are interpreting what I have written - I only speak from my personal viewpoint and do not cast aspersions on others.

And here I have plagiarised Wikipedia - (a hugely useful source) for those other parents who are questioning why faith plays such an important part in our education system - I would imagine it is a matter of economics. The council does not fund everything a well resourced school might require. And we know that the perception from their end is, the less they have to spend on public services, the better.

And if you read the following I think we need to question how 'secular' our secular schools really are?

The Education Act 1944 introduced the requirement for daily prayers in all state-funded schools, but later acts changed this requirement to a daily "collective act of worship", the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 being the most recent. This also requires such acts of worship to be "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character" unless the school is of another faith.

In January 2008, the Commons Children, Schools and Families Select Committee raised concerns about the government's plans for expanding faith schooling.[30] The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Dr. Mary Bousted, said "Unless there are crucial changes in the way many faith schools run we fear divisions in society will be exacerbated. In our increasingly multi-faith and secular society it is hard to see why our taxes should be used to fund schools which discriminate against the majority of children and potential staff because they are not of the same faith".[30]

Long standing opponents of faith schools include the British Humanist Association and National Secular Society. In 2008 the campaign group the Accord Coalition was founded to ensure state funded schools teach about the broad range of beliefs in society; do not discriminate on religious grounds and are made suitable for all children, regardless of their or their parents’ religious or non-religious beliefs. The campaign, which seeks to reform the faith school sector, brings together a range of groups and individuals, including educationalists, civil rights activists and both the religious and non-religious.

In June 2013 the Fair Admissions Campaign was officially launched,[31] the campaign aims to abolish the selection of pupils based on their faith or that of their parents at state funded schools in England and Wales.[32] The campaign has support from both religious and non-religious organizations at both the national and local level including the Accord Coalition, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the British Humanist Association, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, ICoCo Foundation, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.[31]

In October 2013, the Theos Think Tank published a research study on faith schools, titled More than an Educated Guess: Assessing the evidence, which concluded that there is evidence for the "faith schools effect boosting academic performance but concludes that this may reflect admissions policies rather than the ethos of the school."[33] John Pritchard, Chair of the Church of England's Education Board, welcomed the results of the study, stating that "I am pleased to see that this report recognises two very important facts. The first is that faith schools contribute successfully to community cohesion; they are culturally diverse and there is no evidence that there is any social division on racial or ethnic grounds. The second important fact acknowledged in the Theos report is that faith schools do not intentionally filter or skew admissions in a way which is designed to manipulate the system."[34] The study also stated that much "of the debate [about faith schools] is by nature ideological, revolving around the relative rights and responsibilities of parents, schools and government in a liberal and plural society."[35] The Bishop of Oxford concurred, stating that "children are being denied the chance to go to some of Britain’s best schools because antireligious campaigners have turned attempts to expand faith schools into an ideological battle-ground".[33]
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