Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Yesodey Hatorah Senior School: holding its figures to account – Part I

When criticism of YHS is aired, which is not very often since other than a mikveh or shul chat we don't really have a platform for debating these issues and the school is as likely to provide one as chickens would provide a venue for kapores, but nevertheless on those rare occasions when the matter is discussed the stock in trade defence usually goes something like this:

Firstly, this is the best you'll ever get round here and if this lot is done away with their replacement is likely to be some truly frightening loonies who will destroy all the positive things about the school. And anyway, the argument continues, the school has been rated Outstanding by Ofsted, their grades are well above average and so what is there to complain about. That the rating did not apply to Governance is unlikely to tax many in Stamford Hill where committees, meetings, minutes, resolutions and votes are not something many lose much sleep over.

I do not intend to dwell on these arguments at length because however good a job they may be doing it is still no excuse to monopolise a communal asset . It cannot be right for a school to be run by a small, largely self-appointed and unaccountable clique. Without others having a chance to genuinely participate in the running of the school at all levels we will never truly know how good a job is being carried out and whether it cannot be done better.

That aside, there are serious flaws in both arguments. The charge that we are unlikely to get anything better and will probably end up with something considerably worse is dangerously defeatist. Essentially it says that we are inherently incapable of running anything in an organised manner and so we must fall back on entrenched powers whatever the allegations of cronyism, nepotism and worse.

This is a gross insult to the many intelligent and perfectly capable men and women in Stamford Hill who can and do run public bodies in a fairer and more open manner. One would have to ignore the achievements of Agudas Yisroel Housing Association, Hatzole, Chaveirim, Bikur Cholim and many other communal bodies that do valuable work and yet are not run by a single strong man and his immediate and extended family.

This extends to schools too. Beis Chinuch is run by a committee and while it may be to the right of YHS it has also been rated 'Outstanding' in many areas. In addition, the recently opened Beis Yakov primary school only came to life as a result of YHS's invidious and arbitrary admission procedures, if they can be called such. It was set up and is run by a committee of volunteers, it is to the left of YHS and is now operating in its second year.

The main argument however remains that the school has been graded 'outstanding' and so if it ain't broke why fix it?

Continued in Part II

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