Lifelong learning is a concept that perhaps unites all streams of Judaism and Jewish communities. It manifests itself in Jewish schools, youth movements, religious institutions and through organisations such as Limmud—a London based educational charity which has revolutionised Jewish informal and lifelong learning. Jewish Communities around the world have adopted their model of delivering accessible learning and they continue to deliver their annual landmark conference each year. Its no surprise therefore that education, skills and employment are consistently amongst our key concerns.
London strategy for Local Authority provision of school places
Around 60% of Jewish children in London attend Jewish day schools. The increasing preference of parents and students to attend Jewish schools, as well as the accessibility of these schools has driven the expansion and building of new schools in and around areas of significant Jewish population, and new and re-emerging areas. 2012 marks the ten year anniversary of the move of JFS from Camden to Kenton, and the latest addition to Jewish secondary education, the cross-communal Jcoss in New Barnet will open its Sixth form this September. With growing birth rates, the Charedi community continue to invest in new Schools provision to meet exponential demand, and in many cases seek and secure voluntary aided status. With the lack of funding available for new voluntary aided schools in addition to resources for transport and expansion of existing schools, the introduction of Free Schools as a method of increasing provision, particularly for Primary School places has been one that has been taken up by our community, such as Etz Chaim Primary in Mill Hill.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has for some time maintained demographic information on the Jewish Community with a stated aim of ensuring that we are collectively able to plan future services for our community, and the Jewish Leadership Council has recently launched a new project ‘Partnership in Jewish Schools’ to support the growing sector meet many of the challenges it faces in maintaining its character and sustainability.
The Community welcome opportunities to work with Local Education Authorities and London Councils to ensure we are able to bring the collective experience of the Jewish education sector to bear on future planning for schools in London. Faith based schools are one key component in resolving the primary school place crisis in London. Great quality education is inextricably linked to London’s ability to thrive as the heart of the UK’s economy, and equipping our young people with the skills for the future is a key priority that all levels of government should be active participants in.
Uncovering the true picture of Poverty in the Jewish Community
Child poverty affects the Jewish community to more or less extent as it does to London at large. Our community has travelled somewhat from the turn of the 20th century that saw 250,000 Jewish immigrants arrive and settle to the UK, the vast majority of whom lived in abject poverty, sponsoring the need for the many welfare organisations that were founded and continue to exist to this day. Whilst our community has integrated and thrived, areas of severe depravation still exist, particularly in the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Redbridge. In Hackney, 25% of Jews live in overcrowded conditions, whilst around 40% of 16-49 year olds have no formally recognised qualifications. Unemployment rates within the Jewish community also tend to track those of the UK at large, with fears that the rate of unemployment within our Community is on the increase.
The Jewish Community’s formal and informal networks and organisations generate high levels of social capital within our Community at the same time as providing discreet support. In 2007, 131 Gemachim were in operation in Hackney, Haringey and elsewhere supplying basic goods to families in need. There is great concern therefore that the culture of self-help within our community and the tendency of statutory authorities to employ universal analysis of poverty indicators amongst the Jewish Community in targeting their services seriously mask the true picture of poverty in our community.
We would encourage Local Authorities and the GLA to employ greater nuance when dealing with issues of child and broader poverty within the Jewish community, recognising the particular needs of the different elements and geography of our Community. We encourage the statutory sector to engage with pre-existing networks of welfare organisations working to alleviate poverty within our community proactively.
Local provision of activities for Young People and Youth Voice
The Jewish Community’s provision for Young People is highly developed. In addition to a high number of small organisations delivering positive activities for young people within the Charedi community, 12 youth-led Youth Movements reach around 10,000 young people annually. Receiving vital financial and strategic support from the UJIA, these organisations are a key component of our Community’s investment in Young people in helping them develop key skills, confidence and leadership for the future. The Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade (JLGB) in recognition for their work in this field became the first and only Jewish organisation to become a provider for the Cabinet Office and DfE’s National Open College Network, building on their work in removing barriers to delivering faith and culturally specific youth work, being the exclusive National Operating Authority within the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, ensuring Jewish young people have access to Shabbat friendly and Kosher expedition training, assessment and accreditation.
The Jewish Community based Youth Movements and groups deliver youth-led positive activities for young people and should be recognised within the framework of Local Authority statutory provision for Youth Work, particularly where they provide culturally specific services that the statutory sector does not. This is particularly important for the statutory sector when engaging Young People in decision making. Our Community has an active network of engaged and enthused Young People, and LJF would welcome the opportunity to work with Local Authorities and the GLA to ensure that they can play an active role in contributing to the civic life in London.
Personal Safety for Young People
Our Community takes the safety and security of our Young people very seriously. In 2010, the Community Security Trust received £2m to fund tighter security measures in the 39 Jewish voluntary-aided faith schools, many of which are located in London to address the reality that Jewish parents and institutions were reaching into their own pockets to keep students safe. These funds are spent directly on extra provisions such as security guards. Streetwise – a coalition between CST and Maccabi GB works predominately with Jewish schools and organisations to deliver personal safety and personal development programmes for around 10,000 young people each year. Their work looks to tackle problems of bullying, antisemitic bullying as well as delivering personal defence classes and awareness of the safe use of public transport the internet and many other issues.
The Community therefore has significant experience in practical methods of dealing with Youth Violence and discrimination, and we continue to welcome the opportunity of ensuring that pan-London and local approaches to issues of safety for Young people reflect the specific needs and circumstances of our Community.
Youth, Graduate Unemployment & Employment & Skills promotion
Unemployment is a growing problem both within London and the Jewish Community reflects this problem too. Early indications suggest that the lifting of the tuition fee cap is leading to an increasing number of Jewish Londoners either considering remaining in London for Higher Education, or deciding not to attend a Higher Education Institution altogether. Amongst the Charedi community, young people disproportionately favour Jewish institutions of religious learning rather than Higher Education, and we welcome moves to recognise the real and effective skills that these forms of education develop.
TrainE-TraidE works to help members of the Jewish community achieve long term and sustainable incomes through providing directly vocational qualifications, supporting the unemployed get back into work through job readiness activities and career coaching, whilst they along with organisations such as the Jewish Volunteering Network provide valuable placements in businesses and the 3rd sector for an increasing number of graduate and non-graduate unemployed young people.
Jewish Londoners like Londoners at large need access to a broad range of educational and employment opportunities, therefore good access to Vocational Training and Modern Apprentices is a growing concern for our community, particularly in tackling child poverty. We are deeply committed to the future economic success of London and welcome moves by the GLA and Local Authorities to better integrate skills and employment strategies, to which we believe we can make an active contribution.