Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Friday, 26 January 2018

Panning the PANs – Afterword

In the lengthy posts setting out the backdrop to Yesodey Hatorah's proposals for a Middle School and dissecting the consultation document itself It may be difficult to see the wood of killing off a school for the trees of technicalities on PANs, SLTs, SENs and all the other jargon used to dress up a fundamentally mendacious plan to discard an entire primary school on to the streets.

It is not difficult to rant about Pinter and his poodle governors when at almost every move they display their ability to turn anything they touch into slippery slime. When admissions are turned into exclusion, when overcapacity one day becomes undercapactiy on another, when a supposedly charitable wedding hall scheme is turned into a massive black hole for millions of pounds, when an advocate for education on the public stage abuses his power and when public funds are used to try and kill off a school not to his liking the problem is knowing where to start in calling out this thoroughly dishonest lot.

There at the head of the table sits gravedigger Bibelman, with decades-long experience at the helm of the communal Burial Society to fleece both living and dead without accounting to anyone on where and how the vast sums are distributed, if at all. There besides him sits Posen of Agudath Yisroel fame, expert at penning letters to the local press on how to extract the last penny in benefits but now conniving to deny kids a school. Further down sits that most upright of men Grussgot with his gracious posterior adorning the Governing Body of both YHS and Beis Yaakov without seeming to bat a manicured eyelid at juggling the two warring sides. He was never on any of the boards for his brains and so why now give up one for the other? Yet further down sits a Rabbi no less as an 'elected parent governor' when no one can recall when the elections were held or who the rival candidates were. While alongside them is a Hackney Learning Trust appointee to keep a blind eye on proceedings.

YHS Governors

And then to finish off this unconscionable lot is a host of governors appointed 'as a parent' giving the wonderfully nice impression of parental involvement but concealing that the school's founding document has the bare minimum of a single elected parent governor. 'Appointed' is the key word here. Of course, there are the requisite staff appointments but with a gaggle of teenage teachers themselves brought up in this repressive environment how many are going to put themselves up for election? And don't be misled by the appointment date either. Many of them keep on being reappointed time and again for the merits of being as ineffective as required and often far beyond their call of duty.

But what you will not find anywhere is a Pinter, neither the Principal himself nor anyone carrying that surname. He may feature in the minutes on everything from admissions to resources to finances but like Macavity's Cat he is nowhere to be seen. His resigned daughter is still there despite her been gone for some time but the elephant in the room driving all of this keeps himself off the paper trail and lets his puppets do his bidding.

The YHS's admissions information talks about an 'ethos' and 'moral and ethical values' and how 'every aspect of their lives is governed by the codes of Torah observance, and is based on the three tenets of Judaism “Torah, Prayer and Acts of loving kindness”'. 'Every aspect' that is except the actual running of the school that is supposed to instil those values in the children. Where is the ethos in a pack of lies masquerading as a 'consultation'? Where are the 'ethical values' in manipulating admission numbers in all directions to keep deserving students away from the school? Where is the 'loving kindness' in locking themselves behind metal barriers and sticking a finger up at their own family, friends, and neighbours who for whatever reason are 'undesirables' when it comes to school admissions? And where exactly is the Torah in all of this? When you bump into one of those governors this Shabbos don't ask them when they fed the birds but rather why they are killing off a school and dumping the kids.

As I said ranting about this lot is not difficult when they act so blatantly in broad daylight but where is the rest of the community as an attempt is made to ethnically cleanse Stamford Hill of Sephardim, Yekes and anyone who does not fit into the Streimel/Tichel crowd? Does Rav Padwa represent only his cronies in '86' or does he represent all the shuls in the area? Reb Yossel Padwa, his brother, is the rov of Beis Yaakov and Pinter also uses him when he needs some rabbinical cover. Why is he silent while a malevolent plan is being hatched to deny scores of girls a secondary school and potentially a primary school too? Where is the entire Rabbinate ensconced in their citadel in Stamford Hill pontificating on sheitels, skirts and fibre optics but with nothing to say on an admissions system with a definition supposedly in their name to keep as many kids at bay as possible? Is Beis Yaakov not a chareidi school? So why can Pinter use their cover to close it down? Let them use some of the time dedicated to campaigning for the dead and set it aside for our living future and some of the more vulnerable in our midst.

But let's put Rabbonim to the side. They're part of the vested interests and as nepotistic as Pinter himself. Where are all our spokesmen and women who constantly pop up in the press at the first sign of trouble? Does the self-certified 'intelligent' Chaya Spitz of Interlink fame not have a say on the matter? We're fine for grants of millions, lots of talking shops and seminars and symposiums but when it comes to a real immediate risk, not from Ofsted or the DfE or whoever is designated enemy-of-the-day, but from within there is complete silence. And where is Judith Nemeth of NAJOS? And Baumgarten of UOHC's education committee? And Rabbi Meyer of PaJeS? These people at the helm of acronyms piled up like an alphabet soup all share a table with Pinter, ply the same circuit, laugh at Pinter's bottomless pit of quips but when it comes to the role for which they have been appointed, or appointed themselves, there is only ear-piercing silence.

Where are our elected councillors to speak up for their constituents? You find your mouths to oppose speed humps to endanger kids but hide when it comes to provide them with schooling. And where is Hackney Learning Trust as vast sums of public money are squandered to entrench a single family in the stewardship of a publicly funded school? To whom does Yesodey Hatorah belong, to the community or to Pinter, that is the question

Let it be known that this is being carried out under your polished noses. You know what is going on, you know what Pinter stands for and how he goes about it and you choose to do nothing about it. You don't even turn a blind eye because it is all done fully within your eyesight. When those kids end up without schools because of some concocted Middle School no one ever asked for or even knows what it is, it will be at you they will rightly point their finger.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (and women) do nothing.

Panning the PANs–Part 4: The Consultation

And so with the background aside it is time to move on to the actual Consultation with a paragraph by paragraph analysis of the proposals.

This consultation sets out and explains the reasons why Yesodey Hatorah Girls School wishes to annex a Year 5 and Year 6 in September 2019 to its existing Secondary school and create a cross-phase school which would cater for students from Year 5 to Year 11.

This consultation sets out nothing of the sort. The true reason for expanding the school to year 5 and 6 is to exclude Beis Yakov primary school pupils and the 'reasons' set out in the document are at best disingenuous and at worst outright lies.

The primary reason behind this move would be to increase the number of students who attend the school in order to reach our Published Admission Number (PAN) of 455.

If this was indeed the ‘primary reason’ the most logical step would would be to set up a 6th form, especially as Be'er Miriam is already on the premises. Indeed, as the extract of the minutes below shows, Be’er Miriam was created to solve the problem of overcapacity’ in the first place.

Seminary minutes

But as was explained above, 6th form is when many girls in the community change schools and so were it to become state-aided the competition for places would be such that places would have to be allocated on an objective set of criteria. This is something YH and Pinter have shown themselves incapable of doing.

The only plausible ‘primary reason’ is to exclude Beis Yaakov primary school and to entrench Pinter power at YHS. These girls were mostly rejected when they applied to YH primary school and YHS cannot face the prospect of them joining 'his' secondary school. Although the 7 BY girls from year 6 who applied for admission in the next school year may be accepted (offers of places go out only in March) this consultation is to avoid a repeat next year and the year after and so on.

Context and Intent

Yesodey Hatorah was set up for the education of chareidi girls in years 7 to 11. The aim is to provide these girls with a robust and well-balanced education while maintaining the ethos and values that are central to their way of life. We now wish to give some of the younger students the same opportunity that their older sisters to receive a quality education building on the foundations set in the primary school.

This does not make sense at all unless it is suggesting that YH primary is not providing a satisfactory education. What it may mean is that the younger girls should receive the benefit of a free state-funded education just like their older sisters, though this is not what it says. If that is the meaning, why not apply for the primary school to join the state system as a primary school, especially as the same people are at the helm of both schools? That way the entire Yesodey Hatorah, primary and secondary, would be state aided and which would indeed be a huge benefit for the community.

When the school was built and received Voluntary Aid Status in 2005 the PAN was set at 450.

This figure was set by the 'Trustees' of the school and advertised (below) by Pinter himself in 2001.

YHS, founding advert

Why the PAN was set at this number is not clear. In the advert Pinter states ‘It is anticipated that the school will operate at its full capacity from September 2005.’ Yet we are now 17 years later and despite the community's high birth rate those numbers can still not be filled. Was it to justify being given the large site they now occupy and which others within the community were competing for? Would they have not been granted a £5m Government grant to build the school had the numbers been smaller? I do not know and I can only speculate.

The present PAN is 400 with an expected 80 students per year group. The governors’ admission policy agrees with this PAN namely of 80 students per year.

PAN, minutes

The PAN fluctuates according to the whims of the 'governors’ admissions policy'. As the minutes of 27 October 2010 show the ‘Governors’ considered reducing the PAN from 80 to 70 or 60. The then Headteacher Mrs Pinter complained about the ‘strain on resources’ and the PAN was reduced to 60! Yet now they have set the PAN at 80 and must open a Middle School to deal with this supposed overcapacity. There is no explanation as to why it was lower in the past and why it has now been raised which leads one to suspect that they have artificially increased the PAN to justify the creation of a Middle School.

At present there are just over 305 students or roll, and the school is therefore operating at well below the PAN that was originally set. This puts the school in a vulnerable position both vis a vis funding and with regard to mid-year admissions.

This so called 'risk' of funding has not materialised in the last decade and no explanation is given as to why action is suddenly necessary. YHS itself on its school information pages states: “In 2016-17 the grant was £6610. It is expected that both grants will remain the same for next few years”

School funding is determined by  complicated formula and some information can be found here. However, the basic funding is based on a per-pupil basis and the size of the school plays no relevance in this. As to 'vulnerability' on mid-year admissions, this is non-existent. If there are places then admit the pupils. Besides, the admission numbers have been well below the PAN and the PAN has been well below capacity since the school was established and none of these supposed ‘vulnerabilities’ have materialised.

It is therefore the governors and trustees intention to increase the numbers through adding two additional year groups to the existing infrastructure and the creation of a cross-phase school which would comprise of two distinct element’s: A middle school for Y5 - Y7 and an upper school for Y8 – Y11.

This does not follow. As stated above, a far more reasonable solution to the 'problem' is bringing the 'sem' in as a 6th form. They are already on the premises and most secondary schools have linked to them a 6th form. As to this 'middle school' of 2 years it would be a huge waste of resources essentially creating a primary school for just two-year groups. In addition, it would deprive those years of the leadership skills that are often fostered in the older years at primary school because these pupils will be the ‘babies’ of the secondary school rather than the grown-ups of the primary school. As to Middle Schools generally, see Wikipedia on the subject how they are a rare type of schools and that 90% of such schools have closed in recent years.

Current and Potential Admissions

At the moment the vast intake at YHSGS, but not the sole intake, is from the Yesodey Hatorah Primary Girls School.

This is true though it is YHS that is to blame for this. Admittedly, as was explained above, there is generally a low transfer rate in the area from primary schools to secondary schools and so the demand was never likely to be overwhelming. However, YHS has done absolutely nothing to try and reverse this effect. To the contrary, it makes great efforts to keep non-YH primary girls away:

  • YHS NEVER advertises. Repeat NEVER. The YH nursery advertises its admissions as does the primary school for boys and for girls but not the secondary school.

YHS Open Day appointments

  • YHS holds NO OPEN DAY. The Hackney Learning Trust prospectus (see above) simply states that viewing can be arranged by appointment. By contrast, YH Primary pupils are provided with an open day when only they are invited and which is not otherwise publicised.
  • YHS publishes NO PROSPECTUS for local distribution. An application pack in English, Yiddish and Hebrew has been published by this site rather than by the school itself.

YHS contact

  • YHS doesn’t even publish a contact email address on the admissions pages (see above). Those that know the trepidation with which local parents take the step of moving their children’s schools will understand why arranging an appointment or even making a phone call may be a step too far for many of them.
  • Only recently and after a complaint did YHS publish admission procedures online but the web address is not publicised anywhere, not even on its stationery, and so no one would know to visit the site.
  • No assistance is offered to the wider community with applications whereas Yesodey Hatorah primary school parents are told to return the applications to YHS who deal with the application on their behalf

The Admissions Code expressly prohibits schools in the public sector from naming a fee-paying school as a feeder school yet this is exactly what YHS does in practice by restricting publicity and skewering the admission criteria to frighten away potential applicants.

Based on existing students numbers in the Primary school the expected intake from this source indicates that the Secondary school can expect to remain well below the expected PAN for the foreseeable future.

This is not simply disingenuous but positively deceptive. The expectation they speak of is non-existent and there is nothing to suggest that the numbers will remain 'well below' the expected PAN. Firstly, as stated above, the PAN itself keeps on changing and so it may fall in the future and no explanation is given as why it is now 80 when it has been 60 in the past.

More to the point, YHS full well knows that there is a primary school on their doorstep called Beis Yaakov whose students must apply to YHS since that is the only school where, subject to availability, they are entitled to be admitted. It is also in YHS’s hands to increase the numbers by simply advertising the school to the local community, holding an open day, making potential applicants feel welcome and assisting in the application process. All of this is non-existent at the moment and instead stories abound of potential applicants being lied to when making initial enquiries.

While potentially we could get additional applications from students from other local chareidi primary schools this has mainly not been the case in the past, and this is unlikely to change.

How do they know this if they have never tired? Rather than taking the highly unusual step of a two-year Middle School situated within a secondary school, they should do what most schools do and try and increase the number of applicants.

Even if the school was to experience an unprecedented 20% increase in applications from other schools we would still be below PAN.

A 20% increase would be 'unprecedented' only because of the active measures currently being taken to suppress applicant numbers and restrict them to YH Primary. By publicising the school and with the addition of Beis Yakov the numbers could easily be filled.

Yesodey Hatorah Primary Girls Schools and its Relationship to the Secondary School

Currently most of our students come from the Yesodey Hatorah Primary Girls School all considerations on what is required to create a cross-phase school has been based on information provided by this entity, and in consultation with the SLT at the school. This is to ensure a smooth transition and to enable the Secondary School to best meet the needs of the students.

This is unlawful because YHS is treating YH Primary as a feeder school in all but name. Again, no mention is made of the likelihood of an entire class of Beis Yakov joining YHS every year from now onwards. This is not mere conjecture as the current Year 6 of Beis Yaakov has already applied and so they can see the likelihood of Beis Yakov applications being made in future years. The idea of 'consultation with the [Seniors Leadership Team]' at the primary school is a joke. It is Pinter talking to himself or to his brother at best.

It is important to note that the Yesodey Hatorah Primary School (YHPS) part of the Yesodey Hatorah School is a totally distinct organisation to the secondary school, and is in the independent sector. The school is housed in a totally separate campus, has its own governance structure and independent staffing and leadership teams. They also maintain completely independent finances and admission procedures. In common, both schools have a shared ethos with a common goal to provide a well-rounded and comprehensive education to charedi girls in and cater to the same target audience.

To call YH Primary a 'totally distinct organisation' is as blatant a lie as you’ll get. They are joined at the hip, at the head and everywhere in between. The entire Yesodey Hatorah Schools network is run by the Pinter family who divide the positions between them, name buildings after their own and adorn the walls with pictures of their illustrious forebears.

YHS Trust is the charity which runs YHS and its contact address is at Pinter’s home. Pinter is also the Principal of YHS. Yet the same Rabbi A Pinter was until recently the registered Headteacher of Yesodey Hatorah School, which is the formal name of Yesodey Hatorah Primary (see below).

YH primary head, A Pinter

The primary boys’ and girls’ schools are legally a single school (of which more later on) but in fact each school is separately run and occupies an entirely separate buildings some distance from the other(though the grounds at the rear of each school are connected). The boys school is run by the Chaim Pinter (A's brother) branch of the family while the girls’ schools, primary and secondary, are run by Abraham and daughters.

As anyone who has had the misfortune to have a rejection from YH Primary will know, all communications and decisions are then with and by Abraham Pinter and no one else. In 2000 at the Din Torah referred to in Part 2 when admissions to the primary school was the issue it was Abraham who represented the primary school. Similarly when there was an appeal on admissions at YHS the same A Pinter turned up (see below).

Pinter, appeal, minutes

As to the 'independent finances and admission procedures', this is about admissions so I'll leave finances alone for now. But as was explained earlier, by restricting admissions to YH Primary the admissions procedure at YHS is almost just a formality as the primary school acts as a de facto feeder to the secondary school.

As a consequence of the recent ruling in the appeals court, YHPS is currently undertaking a major overhaul to meet Government legislation for schools that provide an education for both girls and boys. In order to ensure full compliance the process of registering the school into two distinct entities, each to provide a single sex education, is currently underway and aims to be completed in the near future. This makes it an opportune time for them to consider changes to which Year groups they cater for. We have consulted the trustees at the primary school, and they are willing to seriously consider reducing their age limit, and providing an education only for the lower school, namely students from Y1-Y4. Transferring their Y5 and Y6 classes to the secondary school would free up valuable classroom space in that building.

This is the devil quoting law for his purposes. The consultation, legislation, registration and consideration is just a smoke screen and padding for something that is no more than a paper exercise if that and with no implications for the day-to-day running of the schools.

As explained above, the boys’ and girls’ schools already occupy separate buildings and are to all intents and purposes completely separate schools with different curricula, teachers, head teachers, admin offices and admission procedures. Anyone who knows anything about Chareidim will know that a boys and girls school of any age could not be differently run. Therefore, to talk of 'that building' in the singular is misleading since they are already two separate buildings. The 'valuable classroom space' is also a red herring since no classroom space will be gained or lost by the supposed 'two distinct entities' as they are already entirely distinct in all but name and have been so for many years.

The Government legislation' they talk about is not any new law but the recent Court of Appeal judgement that segregated schools breach the Equalities Act. The case related to a publicly funded school whereas YH Primary, boys and girls, are independent fee-paying schools. The effects of that ruling are still being worked out and this is just hiding behind jargon and laws to conceal their true intentions.

As was revealed by a senior member of YH Primary girls, the reason for splitting the boys and girls schools is the recent Ofsted report of YH Primary when it was found to be overall ‘Inadequate’. Apparently, it was the boys' school, to which journalists and politicians are never invited, that dragged down the girls' school. It is to ensure that in future inspections the primary girls school is judged on its own merits rather than lumped together with the ‘Inadequate’ boys' school that the boys and girls primary school is being split. However, for the purpose of this consultation they have an interest in talking down the primary school with no distinction between boys and girls so as to make the case for a new supposedly improved Middle School.

With this cooperation, creating a cross-phase school would not negatively impact the primary school. This will allow for a smooth transition and benefit the students currently in Years 5 and 6.

Losing Year 5 and 6 could have a negative impact as the younger classes will be deprived of being in the company of older girls. Moreover, they are not entitled to consider the the impact on YH primary only and the impact on Beis Yakov and other secondary school age children in the entire community must also be considered.

Staffing and School Timetable

The school will be divided into two distinct divisions with Years 5, 6 and 7 being a Middle School and Years 8 through 11 an Upper School. We envisage that the both the Middle and Upper School will be one entity, with one Headteacher responsible for both elements of the school. This alleviates the expense of employing an additional head teacher which will lead to economies of scale and will also ensure that there is one person who has a strategic overview of the full school.

As a Headteacher has been mentioned, it is worth noting that YH Secondary had until recently both a Principal and Headteacher occupied by Abraham Pinter and his late wife respectively. Within months of the passing of his wife their daughter relocated from Israel with her family to be appointed Headteacher despite her lack of qualifications and experience. Unsurprisingly, this did not work out and she left the school within a couple of years. The Principal however has remained in place throughout and the above does not state what role the Principal will play in the proposed new set up.

There have been no advertisements for a new Headteacher since and the post of Headteacher is currently occupied by an Acting Headteacher. There is then a separate 'Menaheles' which is a Headteacher for religious studies.

The question is whether a school which is incapable of hiring a truly independent Headteacher should be allowed an entirely new and unusual 'Middle School' and whether it will be capable of meeting the challenges. The price for the so called 'economies of scale', assuming they exist, may well be borne by the students who are being used as pawns in the rearranging of the Pinter decks.

Deputy Headteachers will be focussed and responsible for a specific division. They will also be the lead person on safeguarding issues with their designated division.

The Middle School will require a Key Stage Lead who has experience of primary schools, younger children, their curriculum etc. The Key Stage Leader will serve as the line manager for the class teachers, of which there will be one per class. It is anticipated that most of the Y5 and Y6 teachers will apply to the Secondary School for teaching positions and in most cases be offered positions in the Middle School. The staffing structure for the Upper School will remain much the same as the existing infrastructure, including different teachers for different subject.

The Middle School will have a different daily infrastructure to the Upper School, with the day split up into fewer lessons, and a different start and finish time for the school day. This will be more in line with the needs of Primary aged students, and the school day will end at 4.00pm. Break time and Lunch will take place at different times to the Upper School. The daily infrastructure in the Upper School will remain similar to the existing system.

Assemblies for each division will be held independently, although on occasion there will be whole school activities.

SLT will be expected to undertake continuous professional development (CPD) training in how to deal with primary aged students, with a specific emphasis on safeguarding and social and emotional development of younger pupils. In addition it will widen the career prospects for the staff and create more opportunities for areas of responsibility etc. The main advantage of this will be to the aid in retention of staff.

This would suggest that the 'economies of scale' they mention earlier is just a mirage as all of the above will need to be created from scratch and for which there is no current need in the existing YH Secondary school.

Meeting the Educational Needs of All Students

We are conscious that we do not have the existing provision to provide an education for Primary Students, and we have carefully researched how we will be able to deliver an excellent education to these students as well as maintaining excellent standards in the existing Secondary classes.

The Key Stage 2 Lead will be expected to attend LA Primary School meetings and CPD training on how to meet the Primary School national curriculum so that they can ensure that students are receiving an excellent education in their subject. The KS2 lead will also liaise with Heads of Department to ensure that students are able to transition smoothly from the Middle to Upper School.

Currently we maintain an excellent working relationship with the Primary School and have a good understanding of their curriculum and how it affects students’ learning once they transition to the Secondary School. In addition, our current Acting Headteacher was previously a Headteacher in a Primary School and she is well placed to assist on overseeing quality in education and to ensure that students at KS2 receive an appropriate and well-rounded education which is age appropriate.

Over the years we have been concerned that students are entering Secondary School without the necessary skills needed to achieve as well as we would expect.

Once again they resort to the trick of talking down their own primary school. If it is the case that YH Primary school girls are below par it would make a strong case for seeking students from other schools which may have better prepared them for secondary school.

The Secondary School has very high expectations of all its students. This is borne out by the standards reached at GCSE. This year analysis of our results gave us a P8 0.75 and A8 5.6 well above national averages of 0 and 4.5 respectively. These values put us in the top 5% according to progress and top 9% for attainment in the country.

The primary school’s SAT results show that the school is clearly underachieving in English. This is not unusual for independent schools in the borough, particularly when taking into consideration the fact that many students speak English as a second language. As the Primary School is privately funded there is little room for specialised teaching.

And yet more talking down of the primary school. They conveniently point to the primary school’s SAT’s result without disclosing the results for the distinct boys and girls schools within the primary school. The girls have good results and it is the boys who drag down the primary school’s results overall.

In the Secondary School most staff within the English department are either qualified with degrees in English or are working toward gaining the relevant qualifications.

A large number if not most of the teachers at YHS are teenagers who have no more qualifications than a few A-levels, if that. They leave school, attend sem for 2 years and are back teaching the girls with whom they shared a playground 2 years earlier. What are the ‘relevant qualifications’ they talk about? Finding a shidduch?

We therefore feel confident that should pupils transfer from the Primary School to the new Middle School they would receive specialist teaching in English which would result in better grades at KS2. Research has shown that how well students achieve at KS2 has an impact on their future grades and eventually career prospects.

Overall we are confident that that we can provide the same standard of education for the Middle School that we are currently providing for all of our students at YHSGHS.

‘Career prospects’ is a nice word for a school whose Principal has said on “Our experience is that the better educated girls turn out to be the most successful mothers. For us, that’s the most important role a woman plays”. But then they will say anything to suit any particular moment.

SEN & Safeguarding Provision

We have excellent SEN department that works closely with our middle leaders and senior staff to ensure that all students regardless of their ability are able to achieve. The earlier any interventions take place the more likely students will be able to achieve at KS2 and at GCSE.

The SEN department will be responsible for both the Middle and Upper Schools and will expand their number of staff. They will employ those with experience in primary education to meet the needs of a Middle School and the increased number of children on roll.

Staff that will be working with the younger children will be given dedicated training on meeting the differing social and emotional needs of younger students.

Yet more employment further bellying their claim to ‘economy of scale’.

Recreational Space, Building Capacity

The school has large play areas, and students in both divisions will have suitable access to recreational areas both indoors and outdoors.

Our current building is considered suitable for use by 450 students, and we do not expect to exceed this number. This means that we will not have to undertake any building works to absorb the additional students.

As any visitor to YHS will tell you, despite being granted a site free of charge and receiving a £5m grant for the impressive modern building they currently occupy, the grounds have been defaced almost from the start and continue to be with portacabins, extensions and huts. This is despite the school running at significant under capacity which is the supposed reason for the proposals in this consultation. Since the grounds have been reduced and in view of the additional grounds required for the younger pupils it is questionable whether the grounds are indeed suited for the proposed numbers and for the younger ages particularly with some of the building being occupied by Be’er Miriam.

Effect on other Schools

It is not anticipated that the merger would have any effect on any of the local schools, aside from Yesodey Hatorah Primary School. Yesodey Hatorah Girls Primary School will no longer have a Year 5 and Year 6. Discharging the school of two year groups will allow YHPS release value space and possibly give the school the opportunity to re-furbish some of their accommodation.

This is the most disgraceful and shameful lie of the lot. This will have an ENORMOUS EFFECT on Beis Yaakov as those girls will not have a secondary school to accept them at the end of their primary school because by then YH Middle/Secondary will be full. Even if it is argued that there will still be an admissions process to YHS, they could easily declare the Middle School as a feeder school thus giving the Middle School students priority. Alternatively, it could hold another ‘consultation’ in the future to convert into one large school.

The practical effect on Beis Yaakov is that their girls may be forced to apply to be admitted for Year 5 of the new YH Middle School as otherwise they stand no chance of a place at YHS at all. Beis Yakov will therefore have to close Years 5 and 6 as all the girls will by then have left. This in turn may lead to the school with only 4 years not being viable and closing. It will suit Pinter as he will have knocked out a competitor and an indirect challenger to his state-funded hegemony. But where does it leave the growing number of families without schools for their children because the community has decided to wash their hands of them? That this should be done with public funds is scandalous and shameful.

Quite separately, YH Primary is a private school and there is no reason why public funds should be used to cater for a handpicked number of families which have been hand-selected by Pinter to be admitted to the primary school. If the primary school requires space and refurbishment let them apply to become state-aided and raise their standards to the level this consultation is so eager for them to achieve.

Budget

Current data from Hackney would give an income of £5000 per primary student. With an intake of 130 students minimum this would generate an income of £650 000. The major costs will be staffing namely for six teachers, a Key Stage Leader, admin and SEN staff.

Note how this is the first times we are given actual numbers. Nowhere have we been told how many applicants they are actually receiving on average over the years, the likely numbers from the YH primary school in future years, the average number of applicants from other schools or the implications of the Beis Yaakov applicants. But now to show the numbers they will be drawing to the Middle School we are told 130 students.

They also appear to accept that the 'economies of scale' they mention earlier is non-existent as a whole new staff must be hired.

The other main outlay would be set-up costs, however it is expected that much of the furniture and resources would come from the primary school.

They have accidentally let their mask slip here. Earlier we were told “Yesodey Hatorah Primary School (YHPS) part of the Yesodey Hatorah School is a totally distinct organisation to the secondary school.” If that was true, on what basis is YHPS giving away furniture for 130 students to YHS? As they themselves shoe it is all one big pot and the entire consultation exercise and proposal are quite literally just rearranging the furniture.

An allowance has also been given for SEN as it is highly likely that there will be some pupils who will need extra support and that we will have to employ somebody with primary experience.

Yet more so called 'economies of scale'.

As the main infrastructure is well established there will be little additional costs to the day to day running of the school as the additional numbers will not impact the maintenance or administrative costs.

Any capital funds which the school may incur will be funded by the trustees.

Presumably to mean diverting money from the big black hole called the 'wedding hall'.

Alternative Proposals

The Governors and Trustees appreciate that they have to work with the PAN that has been set by Hackney.

No. It was set by the Trustees and advertised by Abraham Pinter himself as shown above and has fluctuated between 60 and 90. At that time it suited them to hike the numbers up and now it suits them to hike the numbers down to create space for a ‘Middle School’.

Consideration has been given to increasing the PAN through extending the age range at the upper end of the school through creating a sixth form with a Y12 and Y13. This option was not pursued as there appears to be little demand for such a 6th form within the community. There are already sufficient seminaries that presently meet the community’s needs for this age group.

Yet another blatant and shameful lie. There is a seminary in the very YHS building under the trusteeship of Abraham Pinter himself where of course he wields absolute indiscriminate power on admissions. As shown in the minutes above it was created for the very reason of over-capacity so why not turn that into a voluntary-aided 6th form? The answer is because Y12 is a key transfer stage between school and sem and the competition for admission from other schools would be such that he would not hold the keys. It would also not resolve the lurking 'danger' of Beis Yakov hordes trampling through 'his' school as of right rather than by his grace. To ‘remedy’ this an unheard of Middle School must be created to maintain his powerbase and exclude an entire school in the process.

Admission Arrangements 2019/20

A separate consultation is being conducted by Hackney Learning Trust in regards to admission arrangements for 2019-20. Details available on the following link https://www.learningtrust.co.uk/admissions/Pages/AdmissionsConsultation.aspx and also from the school office at 6 Egerton Road N16 6UA.

This will reflect the proposed age and PAN changes and the different entry points into the school.

Consultation Timetable Consultation period starts

Wednesday 20th December 2017

Consultation period ends

Wednesday 31st January 2018

NOTE THE DEADLINE!!!

Governors’ review of responses

Wednesday 14th February 2018

Governors final decision

Tuesday 13th March 2018

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Panning the PANs – Part 3 – The ‘Problem’ of Beis Yaakov Primary School

Taking a step back now it was in light of YH Primary's restrictive admissions that Beis Yaakov primary was born. An increasing number of parents were left without schools or were unwilling to conform to the demands of the existing schools and were also unwilling to move to Golders Green or even to Manchester. It was to accommodate the increasing number of these children that parents grouped together to form Beis Yakov.

Its first cohort, now in Year 6, is of 7 girls and there are currently about 90 girls in the entire school. Its policies are generally more tolerant than the other schools though they too had to tighten up so as not to be seen as a 'dumping ground' for rejects from other schools.

Since Beis Yaakov has no secondary school the 'danger' to YHS is obvious. Here is Pinter like a centurion at the gate guarding the 'purity' of 'his' school virtually from cradle to the wedding bed and here in one fell swoop his life's work risks being undone. If no action is taken an entire cohort of girls with their own ethos and connections and friendships will turn up at the secondary school demanding as of right to be admitted. Not having suffered the indignities of pleading to be admitted to a Yesodey Hatorah school and complying with whatever rules that were imposed on them these girls and their parents will not feel beholden to Pinter & Co and will not have the fear of him branded into their DNA.

From Pinter’s point of view this is as intolerable a situation as it gets and which must be stopped at all cost. Pinter himself has made it known to Beis Yaakov that he had a delegation of two YHS mothers claiming to represent 40 YHS mothers to threaten that if BY girls are accepted they will withdraw their children from YHS. This was to convey the pressure he is supposedly under and to ‘persuade’ BY to find another school for their girls. Indeed, last summer there were well sourced reports that YHS was seriously considering going private to avoid having to accept Beis Yaakov girls. This must have proved too high a price to pay and was dropped. Which neatly brings us to the current consultation.

One final point before moving on to the consultation itself, it should be made clear that Pinter did not wake up to this situation overnight. Being the wily player he is and knowing what was in store, he has over recent years been relaxing admissions to YH Primary so as to deprive BY of the numbers they require to run a viable school. He has not accepted everyone but often after refusing a child and the child being accepted to BY he has then decided to accept the child after all. The presumed aim being to leave BY with the 'dregs' so that no one in their right mind given the choice would send their child there as a first option. Although he has been partially successful and Beis Yaakov remains a small school despite the local high birth-rate, he has not killed off Beis Yakov altogether and which is why more drastic action is now required.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Panning the PANs – Part 2 - On Yesodey Hatorah Admissions

Before turning to the specifics of the consultation something must also be said about the Yesodey Hatorah Schools and its admission procedure as well as its relationship, if that's the right word, with Beis Yaakov (BY). BY, it will be recalled, was recently established and has only a primary school.

The Yesodey Hatorah girls school was established towards the end of the 1940s or thereabout. They were the first frum girls' school in the area and served the local 'frum' community as the term was understood at that time. For e.g. initially classes were co-ed even for 12 years olds which would be unheard of today. The background of the parent body was also not necessarily what would nowadays be classed frum.

As the community grew in number and as the frum world became frummer Yesodey Hatorah moved with the times. Yet despite this it has always been the school which traditionally served the middle ground of the community and remains so to this day. During the 1960s and 70s and first half of the 1980s when there was only Lubavitch, Bnos and Satmar, that meant practically everyone else. Towards the end of the 1980s and more so in the 1990s when the community's exponential growth began and the ‘right’ veered ever more east YHS began being seen as, and still is to a degree, the 'moderate' and 'soft' choice. It may be due to trivialities like the length of hair and skirts, the denier of tights or driving mums but these things matter round here. Out of this arose Beis Chinuch which started life as a frummer and holier version of Yesodey Hatorah and which overall still holds that position.

Not at all by coincidence, it was also around this time in the 1990s or so that Yesodey Hatorah became progressively more selective in its admissions. As Pinter openly says, he doesn't want to be 'left with' the downs and outs (though he is known to put it in far more colourful language).

This caused a great degree of anguish throughout the 1990s and 2000s and families were forced to move to North West London or to Manchester and even further afield because they simply had no school for their children. In other cases, parents were forced to remain with the school of their movement because the unaffiliated schools in the supposed middle ground, be it Yesodey Hatorah or Beis Chinuch, would not accept them.

Those who suffered the worst were families from ‘irregular’ backgrounds. I am referring to ‘dysfunctional’ or ‘nebech’ families, single-parent families, Sephardim, balei tshuva and other non-‘heimish’ backgrounds who must suffer the indignities of a microscopic assessment before anyone will even consider them let alone accept them. They often have no family to fight their cause, no established community to turn to, no money or connections to flex some muscle on their behalf and so they must fall back on the unaffiliated Rabbonim, which is a parlous state indeed. These Rabbonim themselves, without the backing of a large community, can possibly provide sympathy and empathy and lots of chizuk but little else.

Yet for a long time, besides those who suffered no one really did anything. Because if the schools act as an effective means to keep ‘undesirables’ out and those most likely to stray on the straight and narrow who exactly round here in authority will complain? And in Yesodey Hatorah’s case, if there is anyone whom Pinter will most gleefully reject it is those parents who were born in one mode and who try to rise above (or fall below depending on your viewpoint) their station. He doesn't want to be the first port of call for those smart alecs to whom their parents' and rabbis' lifestyle is no longer good enough. And so long that it is in his power to get such families to conform or move away he will fulfil that role with a relish and with the nod and wink of his elevated peers.

At a practical level, the main gatekeeping necessary at Yesodey Hatorah (as well as at other schools) is at the primary school entry stage since relatively few apply at a later stage, whether during the primary or secondary years or from primary to secondary. This process at YH Primary as at YHS throughout this period has been and remains the sole preserve, if not the actual creation, of Pinter himself. (At the boys’ school where he is not in charge, admissions are far more relaxed.) This is not to say that he controls every single admission but it is he who devises the strategies to control admission and who oversees its execution. And when there are rejections, of which there is no shortage, it is also to his door, if not his feet, that all communications, negotiations, begging, pleading, phone calls, tears and all the rest are directed.

A Yesodey Hatorah rejection letter


Those who are rejected will testify to the run-arounds, half-truths and outright lies they are given, the deflecting of blame and the sheer contempt in the manner they are treated. The rejection letter will give no reason and simply tell you that you’re not accepted. After that it’s all verbal with numerous phone calls where you can’t get through, visits with no one to speak to, promises that someone will call back and appointments which are not kept and every other tactic designed to wear down the rejects in the hope they will go away or be broken into submission so that they’ll remember forever who the boss is. Except in the very difficult cases when anonymous written threats are received of being reported for benefits fiddling.

The reason why the admission problem is particularly acute with Yesodey Hatorah because it is a communal school, founded by the community and funded by the community but still they are accountable to no one. They even market themselves as the ‘town’s school’. Yet when it comes to admissions there is no formal procedure, no criteria published, no admissions committee worth speaking of (always ‘anonymous’) and no appeals system and it is at the whim of a single individual that the destiny of entire families are decided. The fact that Pinter likes to present himself to the media and to politicians as the smiling, human face of Stamford Hill also does not help those with the misfortune to encounter his darker side on local display. Even the various Chasidic movements which are far from democratic have their own authorities and their own internal dynamics, be they rabbinical or lay, who are the ultimate decisors and where there exists an appellate system of sorts though not necessarily as formally as the term is usually understood. Similarly, Beis Chinuch is also led by a committee and is guided by local Rabbonim without a single strongman wielding all the power. But with Yesodey Hatorah all the power rests with one individual and who wields it indiscriminately.

Din Torah Ruling on YHS Admissions Committee


In one instance in 2005 there was a Din Torah which the local Beis Din accepted after initial refusals and much cajoling. Pinter appeared in person and alone to represent the school. The Beis Din went on to rule that an admission committee will be set up by the local Rabbinate to oversee admissions. Yet no such committee was ever set up. The ruling was based on the school's constitution at the time which had nothing to say on admissions and a lot to say on governance but within a short time that charity ‘ceased to exist’ and a new charity with a different constitution took its place. Needless to say, the large lay and rabbinical committees in the original constitution did not make it over to the new one and the rejections continued apace.

Although the voluntary-aided status of YH Seniors should have put paid to such arbitrary practices in fact little changed. For a start, as I said earlier, few change schools at secondary school. There is therefore relatively little demand for places at secondary school since most girls are by then settled. Yesodey Hatorah has of course done nothing to change that and, as will be seen later, put in much though and effort to ensure it remains this way. Besides, not many know how the local authority application system works and of those who dare to enquire many are fobbed off by the school about availability and criteria.

There is then the concern about complaining to an outside body which many fear may constitute 'mesire' (snitching) and which Pinter himself bandies about when faced with more difficult applicants. The end result is that few take their grievances to the local authority and are even less likely to appeal a decision against them. That said, on the whole, those who apply and know how to go about it do get in simply because YHS knows it has no alternative.

As a result of the above, YHS is almost entirely a continuation of YH Primary with the primary school acting as its de facto feeder school. This is not official, though, as the Schools Admissions Code (para. 1.9.l) prohibits a publicly funded school from nominating an independent school as a feeder.

Notwithstanding the above, there was, and remains a concern that 'undesirables' could potentially turn up at YHS in droves and exclude even what YHS sees as its core applicants from YHS Primary, its feeder school in all but name. To cover for this, YHS drafted admissions criteria (an earlier version of which was found by the Schools Adjudicator to be unlawful*), giving the impression that only Chareidi girls who matched a certain definition of 'charedi' would be admitted to the school. To this end they concocted a definition of 'chareidi'* despite that no such definition exists anywhere in the world. It includes such nonsense as 'Very long skirts are not accepted within our Charedi חרדי community and as such are forbidden'.

Besides it being a non-sequitur it simply is not true. There is a huge difference between something not being the norm to not being 'accepted' and to being forbidden. This, however, is a good example of the social engineering implicit in these rules. There are plenty of Chareidi communities in London and elsewhere where long skirts are the norm and no one has ever banned them. But it is usually slightly more ‘modern’ groups though still Chareidi who wear such skirts. It is these that YHS is trying to keep on the wrong side of the tall gates and if possible to get them to move away altogether. Quite besides that, the rules in the admissions criteria on skirts, wigs and the like are hardly eligible criteria at all. Admissions criteria presuppose that people are adhering to a certain set of rules and by which they are judged rather than setting the very rules solely for those same admissions purposes.

But it is in the definitions itself that their true intentions are revealed. According to the admissions criteria,
“In these arrangements “Charedi Jewish girl” means a girl who is a member of a Charedi family that lives in accordance with Charedi principles and ethics as prescribed by the Rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.”
Yet no such definition by the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) exists. UOHC’s 2012 constitution (Articles of Association) does not even contain the word Chareidi at all. At clause 26.1 it stipulates that to hold office a person must abide “by Jewish law as laid down by the Shulchan Oruch together with its commentaries, as interpreted by the Rabbinate” but otherwise there are no prescriptive rules. Similarly, UOHC encompasses all kinds from shuls in North West like Hendon Adath and Munks all the way to Satmar. Thus, the idea that there is a single definition of ‘Charedi Jewish Girl’ as set out in those criteria would be ludicrous if it was not so shamelessly deceptive for the purpose of excluding pupils.

The admissions procedures were indeed challenged though on different grounds and the Schools Adjudicator upheld almost all of the complaints. The main grounds of challenge were that the admissions procedure gave the impression that it applied to all applicants whereas in truth it applied only if the school was oversubscribed. This was not an oversight on the part of the school. I recall that when the school opened Joe Lobenstein writing in his Ben Yitzchok column made much of the definition of 'chareidi' and how it would ensure the purity of the school, or however he put it. (Though Lobenstein served as the chair of governors of YHS, he never made that point clear even when he excoriated other Jewish state-aided schools for being state-aided.)

It is also the obsession with admissions which explains why Yesodey Hatorah chose the state aid route for its secondary school rather than its primary school. In general, chareidi schools in the UK have preferred state aided status for primary schools rather than secondary schools. This applies to Pardes House Primary which is state aided as opposed to its grammar school which is not. It is the same at Beis Yaakov in North-West London and was also the case until recently with Menorah Primary versus Menorah High. It is due to the fewer demands of the Department for Education places on the curriculum of primary schools and also due to the greater demands for religious studies in secondary schools.

Yesodey Hatorah by contrast despite purporting to be the most chareidi of the lot chose the reverse route. The only plausible explanation for this is that if its primary school was state aided it would mean having to accept all applicants by a transparent set of rules at the start of their school life and that is something the powers there will not accept. By contrast, with only the secondary school being state aided and combined with the fact that there are not many transfers locally at secondary school age it believed it could work round admissions and which until now has indeed gone to plan.

Make no mistake as to the level of Pinter’s involvement in all of this at the Secondary School despite there being a notional Admission sub-committee. As an employed Principal of the school he should have no involvement in admissions at all. Yet, as these extract of the Board of Governors' minutes show he is involved at every level. From setting admission numbers, admissions application, dealing with the ‘problem’ of over-capacity to appeals where he represented the school and which he ‘fortunately’ won.




I am setting all this out to show how for Yesodey Hatorah admissions is not some passing fad or side issue but an all-encompassing obsession over many years. It is only with this backdrop that the consultation for a Middle School makes any sense.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Panning the PANs: On Yesodey Hatorah’s proposed ‘Middle School’ – Part 1


As first reported on the linked Twitter account, the state funded Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School (YHS) is consulting on 'annexing' a Year 5 and Year 6 to its existing school and creating a Middle School for those classes.

As it currently stands YHS consists of Years 7-11 which is the norm for secondary schools. It also has a notional 6th form (known locally as a 'sem') on its premises called Be'er Miriam Seminary with two years which are the equivalent of Years 12-13. This is a private fee-paying institution of which Abraham Pinter is a trustee. Its charitable income in its last financial report was £362,052. It pays no rent to YHS for its use of the school premises.

YHS has now published a consultation document on this annexation but to understand the issues and the possible motives for YHS's proposals it is important to set out the background of girls' schools in Stamford Hill's Chareidi community.

Just one disclaimer before I proceed. I must apologise in advance for using terms, in inverted comas where I remember, that are often judgemental in origin and intent and particularly cringe-inducing when used for self-serving purposes. As unpleasant as they are, I did not coin them and nor have I formed the community and sub-communities that often define themselves within by those terms. This, however, is the reality of the situation and which I cannot escape try as I may. So irrespective of my own views I have to resort to such terms if I am to provide a frank summary of the situation.

*

The Stamford Hill community has a number of girls’ schools ranging from Lubavitch on the 'left' and which draws its intake from beyond the broader community to B'nos Yerushalayim on the 'right' which serves the extreme right of Satmar and similarly minded fringes. In the middle is a range of schools generally controlled by the Chasidic powerhouses like Satmar and Belz and more recently joined by Vizhnitz and Bobov. There is then an unaffiliated sector which consists of Beis Chinuch for the frummer end, Beis Yaakov for the moderate end and Yesodey Hatorah somewhere in the middle.

All the local girls schools, with one exception, run from nursery through to the end of secondary school. Round here nursery is often referred to as reception or infants, primary school is predominantly known as juniors and secondary school as seniors. In most cases nursery, primary and secondary schools are not separate schools and often not even different departments but simply a single school where you are enrolled at one end and emerge at the other at 16 years old and almost ready for a shidduch after a year or two in 'sem'. Sem, short for seminary, is our equivalent of 6th form and when a new round of applications and selections take place.

The single exception to this is Beis Yaakov (BY), which has only a primary school. BY was founded 6 years ago and its first cohort will graduate in the summer of this year. This class, as well as the classes below them every year henceforth, will need to find a new school to continue their secondary school education. And it is in light of the 'problem' of BY girls joining YHS that the current proposals and consultation must be considered.

Before moving on to the consultation itself it is also important to understand how parents round here generally choose a school for their children. Since most schools are affiliated to a Chasidic movement most parents belonging to the movement will enrol their children in that movement's schools. Where a movement does not have its own schools parents will typically choose (or 'send' as it’s referred to here) the movement closest to their affiliation. 'Close' in this sense may mean in origin and custom to wherever they are affiliated or with historical ties between the different movements. Another factor is also the parents' own level of observance and piety and so they might choose a school that is closest to their own worldview. Or shtetl-view if you like.

But overall, the selection of a school before primary school and then secondary school does not exist here in most cases because most parents 'belong' to this or that movement and so their choice is made up for them. And not only is the child likely to remain at that school for the entire duration of her school but it’s also where her siblings are likely to attend (and it may well influence where these children enrol their own children in generations to come). This is not only due to the way the schools are structured but also because of the manner and the reasoning behind the 'choice' in the first place. Similarly, there is relatively little movement between the schools of the different Chasidic sects as whatever motivated the parents to select a particular school in the first place it likely to remain in place for them for the rest of their lives.

That said, there is still a fair number of transfers between schools either between years or from primary to secondary. This is for a variety of reasons whether because a child does not settle well in to a school or issues arise whether from the school, the pupil or the parents' end and a transfer becomes necessary. In other cases parents may become disappointed with a school and they decide they want something different. It could be they consider the school too strict, too lax, too frum, too much homework or whatever. These parents may still belong to the movement but yet want something different for their child. This is more common amongst girls as affiliation is predominantly a patriarchal issue and so fathers will typically be more particular about their boys' affiliation and upbringing than mothers about their daughters.

Of this last lot there are then the parents who become 'enlightened', or 'modern' as it would be phrased here. Meaning, that as new parents when they were barely out of their teens they may have opted for a certain school because that is where they 'belonged', that is where his and her parents dictated, whether expressly or implicitly, the child must attend and that is the school where it was as natural to send their child as it was natural for him to attend the shul to which the school is affiliated. In most cases it probably did not even occur to the parents that they had a choice and even if they did give it some though they may well have believed the propaganda pumped out by each movement on the superiority of their schools and the 'dangers' of venturing elsewhere.

However, as they mature and acquire their own identities they may realise that they want something more 'loose' or unaffiliated for their children and for themselves. In other cases it may be the pupil herself who has moved on and either wants to move to a new school or, in more 'extreme' cases, the school where she was first enrolled no longer wishes to keep her. When we say 'extreme' we're not talking anything as radical as an ear-helix piercing or a thumb ring but merely her hairstyle, her dress style, having the misfortune of being more assertive, prettier or more feminine than her classmates or any other nuance that brings her to the attention of the powers that be.

The above all rests on the premise that the child actually has a school to go to in the first place. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as many parents have come to learn to their anguish when they struggle to find a school for their nursery or primary school age child. There is a difference in this between the Chasidic schools and the unaffiliated. In general, each Chasidic movement will provide a place for the children of its adherents and so Chasidic parents will usually not struggle for a place provided they wish to enrol their child in the movement's schools. This is because 'belonging' to a Chasidus generally involves to a greater or lesser degree conforming to their mores and adhering to their rules and so those within are usually 'kosher' enough to get their kids in to the school. Chasidim also tend to look after their own and so even parents of a slightly more 'liberal' bent will still be well aware of the limits and the price they must pay to 'belong'. By contrast, those who are unaffiliated or whose movements do not run schools must live by different rules. So long that the parents are conformist, don't ruffle any feathers and don't stand out from the crowd they too will find a place with either one of the Chasidic or unaffiliated schools.

Where the problems arise is when parents of a Chasidic background veer too far from their own movement or where they decide that their movement's schools are not suitable for them. In the case of the unaffiliated it is a similar picture though the threshold tends to be higher as they have no movement they can turn to as of 'right' (provided they conform to some degree) that may choose to overlook their relatively minor indiscretions. The Chasidic schools outside their movement will say you don't 'belong' to us and we don't want other people's 'garbage' (yes, it's often put as crudely as that) while unaffiliated schools like Beis Chinuch or YHS also turn them down on similar grounds, that if they are not 'kosher' for their own they’re definitely not kosher enough for these unaffiliated schools. The unaffiliated schools have the added excuse with Chasidic parents, that these parents have schools ready to accept them and if the parents are unwilling to conform to their own movement’s schools, well then that is their problem.

Such parents are thus left without a school and the kids must languish at home because no school will accept them. True, Lubavitch remains open to such parents and many children do indeed end up there as a very last resort. But for a multitude of reasons, and rightly or wrongly, Lubavitch is not considered locally as a core communal school despite its location in the area. Lubavitch pupil base is also from a far wider spectrum and these parents still feel very much part of the community where their family and friends are and want their children reared within the same community.

As mentioned above, children round here generally stick with the school where they started their school life and so the aforementioned problems with admissions are more common in nursery or primary school because once accepted the child will tend to remain there and if they do decide to change it is more often than not difficult to do so with without a fight. Problems do arise where a child is 'kicked out' of a school or where the parents are desperate to change schools but these are relatively few and far between.

In considering the above it is easy to forget that this is only how things are and not how they ought to be. However, since all the local schools but one (Lubavitch aside) are private schools they do not have to account to anyone for their decisions on admissions and on how they run their schools. It is futile arguing on how things could and should be different since they raise their own budgets and set their own rules.

The one exception to this is Yesodey Hatorah Seniors which is the first and at the moment only Chareidi voluntary-aided school in Stamford Hill. (There used to be Avigdor primary school but that was even further away to the 'left' than Lubavitch.) Since YH Seniors is, notionally at least, subject to the laws on school admissions it might have been expexted that things would be run rather differently there but then that would be without taking into account that the Yesodey Hatorah Schools are run as the personal fiefdom of the Pinter family with the girls schools 'belonging' to the Abraham Pinter branch.

True, they publish a prospectus and admissions criteria, as they must, applications are submitted to the local authority, decisions are taken (again, notionally) by a sub-committee of school governors and rejections can be appealed. But then Russia also has a constitution and courts but we still know how the place is run. And it is in how YH Seniors is run in practice that we come to the crux of the 'problem' as YHS sees it and to the 'consultation' it is now holding.

In case it needs to be stated, this series of posts takes it as a given that Pinter is Yesodey Hatorah and Yesodey Hatorah is Pinter, in particular relating to the girls' schools and even more so in reference to admissions, and that the two are virtually interchangeable no matter how many boards, governors and trustees he hides behind.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

פתחו שערים – Open the Gates

Yesodey Hatorah Application Pack - Year Beginning Sep 2015

This website is proud to present for the 2nd year running a tri-lingual Information Pack which includes a step-by-step guide and FAQs on applying for admission to Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School.

For once I should and will shut up about my pet peeve. I wouldn’t really be doing my cause a favour if I slagged off the school while trying to promote it. So for today I will do no more than remind you that this is a school that has recently been judged by Ofsted to be Good and which comes after a rating of Outstanding that lasted for over 8 years.

If you have decided that this is the school you want for your daughter then follow the instructions and she should be offered a place. Don’t believe whatever you’re told about getting your child in and don’t be deterred by whatever obstacles are put in your way.

The School has 80 places to offer and year after year is heavily undersubscribed. So if you are frum and live in the Stamford Hill area and you want your daughter to attend Yesodey Hatorah then you should almost certainly be able to get her in. It is your right and so long that you go about it correctly you will find that despite their formidable appearance those gates are actually scaled quite easily.

The deadline is very soon, 31 October, so don’t delay and get your application in at once.

Best of Luck!

Friday, 19 September 2014

How the Pinter got its Head

Weinberg YHS Appointment, Minutes

Having dealt extensively with the anointment of Rivky Weinberg (née Pinter) as Headteacher of Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School it is time to take a closer look at the formalities the school adopted for the process. Famous for its adherence to the letter and spirit of the law, it was a certainty from the start that YHS's selection and anointment process would be entirely above board. But to scotch any doubt we now have the minutes of the meetings of the governing body relating to the appointment (above) to prove the point.

To save you wading through the deliberations, and having to follow Pinter as he moves in and out of the meeting, let me summarise for you the proceedings in what I hope will be a few brief paragraphs.

Mrs Pinter passed away on 12 March of this year and on 18 March 2014 the Governing Body headed by the Adath Burial Society trustee, Tony Bibleman, met to consider the appointment of a new Headteacher. At this very early stage they're already talking of advertising for a replacement 'worldwide', presumably because having interred so many bodies the Chair knows all too well what a rotten crop of educators London has to offer. The Governors are also very concerned about the advert being drafted in accordance with the 'hushcoffa' (sic) of the school. (Making a hush about the coffers is a rather sad pun so let's drop that one.)

Who ever knew that there existed hashkofes on job adverts but thanks to Yesodey Hatorah we are enlightened. We now know that while a hashkofe-compliant ad requires no mention of qualifications or experience as a prerequisite for the job, repeated mention of the former headteacher with a Pinter surname is a must.

A governor also suggested the need for the new Head to be proficient in Yiddish despite the fact that Yiddish is rarely if ever heard in the classrooms of that school. Since the need for Yiddish didn't make it through to the adverts we must take it that the school's lawyers vetoed that one. Nice try, though, and a shame too as it would have narrowed the field even further.

Adverts are duly published around the end of April in the Hamodia and Jewish Tribune and on 13 May 2014 the Governing Body chaired by the Undertaker convenes again. The governors are at a loss that the advert has produced only a 'handful of enquiries' and so they come up with a wheeze: include a photo of the school. Show the world the fortress and gates which are so good at keeping out undesirables and applicants will come flocking in their droves. No one as much as mentions that tinkering with the text of the advert might increase interest, assuming that was their aim, and instead it is proposed -and seconded- that the Undertaker and the Acting Head would put their heads together to find a hashkofe-compliant photograph for the ad. What a relief.

There was another slight problem, as the clerk pointed out, that a Headteacher for a maintained school must be qualified and preferably hold the NPQH. Once again the Undertaker comes to the rescue. Could she not be trained up, he ponders aloud. L'man Hashem, don't mention any such requirements in the advert, it's only a photo that the wretched ad needs and the qualification will follow after. (It now turns out that Weinberg (née Pinter), who is not qualified, has undertaken to acquire the necessary qualifications, which just goes to show how prescient a Chair the Undertaker is. I too am thinking of applying to fill the empty chair on the UOHC Rabbinate on the basis that I’ll 'train up' later.)

But hang on there, there is a far greater problem and which could lead to a serious breach of the peace. In a hitherto unheard of spontaneous outbreak of Pinter fervour 'well over 60 parents' wrote to the Chair/Undertaker demanding Mrs Weinberg as Head Teacher.

I urge you to stop here and pause for a moment. The school has barely started advertising for a new Head, at this stage there has been no mention whatsoever of the appointment process to parents, let alone proposing to them a choice of candidates, and their views have not been canvassed in any shape or form. Yet out of the blue not half a dozen, not two dozen, but well over 60 parents are writing unsolicited letters urging the school to appoint an inexperienced and unqualified candidate who’s been living aboroad for the last decade or so and who just happens to be Pinter's daughter. I have always been an an admirer and an avid reader of Weinberg’s peerless column and I have never harboured any doubt about her remarkable abilities but still this clamour for her Headship has left me flummoxed.

Naturally, and perfectly in line with the famed humility of her family, Weinberg didn't even want the job and 'would not apply.' However, if you took the trouble to ask her, and as an absolute b'dieved, and maybe if you threw in £90,000 per annum and, between you and me, some relocation costs she might just consider the position. Assuming of course that the stains on the wallpaper have all come out by then and the carpet has covered up all that unsightly rot so that she can clear her previous desk.

And so in order to keep the mob from storming the bastille and install their desired candidate, Pinter himself, aka daddy to Wienberg, reluctantly agreed to 'be involved in briefing prospective candidates.' A perfectly logical decision since as we've just heard, Weinberg didn't really want the job anyway.

This, my friends, is how we come to the further meeting of 17 June 2014 when the Head of Hackney Learning Trust (HLT), Tricia Okoruwa and Head of Secondary Schools at HLT, Martin Buck, come along to rubber stamp the process that will in due course confirm Weinberg's anointment. Pinter was not present when the selection committee was formed and with a Governing Body to do his bidding he could well afford to take a break. And avoid any conflict of interest, of course.

Anyway, returning to the meeting, fine words were exchanged, the Undertaker lamented that they had only 2 applications and Mr Buck told the governors that 3 adverts 'demonstrated that they were serious about making an appointment for the best candidate and were not just looking on the doorstep of the school.' As if to prove that point Weinberg/Pinter was duly imported from some 2000 miles away. Even a cynic like me can't call that on the doorstep, can I?

As to where the Buck stops (sorry, but another bad pun) 'Mrs Okowuro (sic) and Mr Buck left the meeting and Rabbi Pinter returned.'

It hardly needs repeating that Weinberg (née Pinter) was duly appointed and let us reflect on the size of the fish-head Weinberg consumed last year Rosh Hashone and over which she sniffled the Yehi Rotzoin to become a Head and not a household tipster. Her prayers have boruch hashem not gone astray and as we say in Yiddish, when a fish stinks it stinks from the very Head. And occasionally from the Principal too.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

How to Hijack a School…

…as taught at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School

To those of you who have not yet heard, and that assumes that you read neither the Hamodia nor the Jewish Tribune, the voluntary-aided Yesodey Hatorah Senior School (YHS) has just appointed a new head teacher. She goes by Rivky Weinberg, but don't be fooled by her surname. Her maiden name was Pinter, daughter of Avrohom/Abraham Pinter, and that is the story that concerns us here.

This appointment is rotten at so many levels, so brazenly bent, so beggaring belief, so cynically contemptuous of staff, parents, pupils and the entire community, so disregardful of any modicum of propriety that it is difficult to know even where to start. But start we must and as the mishna teaches us, it’s not your job to complete the task but that isn't an excuse not to have a go.

Head teacher age

Let us begin with what is certain about Weinberg, which is her age. Wienberg is 33 years old and this makes her one of the youngest head teachers in the UK. In fact, as the table above shows (see Table 4), she may well be the very youngest head teacher in England!

So what are those exceptional qualities that have earned her this appointment at such a young and tender age? And what is so unique about her that she had to be brought over from Israel after a search that apparently spanned more than half the globe? Well, if we know little of her supposed experience it is not for lack of opportunity. Unlike other head-teacher appointments to frum schools up and down the country, Hamodia saw fit to dedicate a third of a page to this appointment but mentioned not a single qualification. It talks about her 'wealth of relevant experience' but remains vague on the details. Likewise, a letter was posted to parents notifying them of the appointment but with a similar lack of detail.

Another certainty is that she has little recent teaching experience in this country because she has been living abroad for the last few years. As far as anyone can remember, when she was living here about 10 years ago she worked at the Hamodia where daddy of course is an 'adviser' and which explains the hyperbolic announcement of her appointment. The grapevine further suggests that until very recently she's been the co-author of the popular Hamodia household-tips column, 'That's an Idea', where she went under the name of R. Vine. Whether advice on how to get chrein stains out of your husband's shirt qualifies one as a head-teacher is anyone's guess but apparently the YHS appointment panel think it does and I am in no position to argue.

So without the years, without apparent qualifications and with some vague experience only, what else might be behind her appointment? I shan't keep you guessing and considering how the vacancy arose may give us some clue. In March of this year the former head teacher of the school, Mrs Gitty (Rachel) Pinter, passed away. She was the wife of the Principal of YHS, Avrohom Pinter, and she was head teacher since about the 1970s when YHS was still a private school. It was following her passing that it fell to the governing body to appoint a new head teacher which they have now done.

And this is the point I am getting to. Rivky Weinberg has been appointed as head teacher for one reason only: because she is lucky enough to be daddy's girl and daddy believes he can get away with it. Her qualification is being her mother's and father's daughter and her experience consists of having them as parents for some 30 odd years. I haven't made this up and the governors have themselves said so. "As a daughter of Mrs Pinter she has a deep understanding of" yada yada yada.

Let me say that I'm prepared to believe that Weinberg's appointment is perfectly within the law. This school that denies its pupils anything from qualified and experienced teachers, a comprehensive curriculum, a broad range of school trips and even school meals, will gladly splash out generously on legal advice whenever its carefully constructed façade of lies and misinformation is under threat. You can therefore rest assured that they've covered themselves from every angle with the best advice that money can buy. But what neither lawyers nor ingeniuous household tips can do is remove the stench and boy does this stink.

YHS head ad, relocation

In the four-and-a-half months of the vacancy there were perhaps only 6 adverts with relatively few details of the job description, they contained no requirements for qualifications and in some of the adverts there was not even mention of experience. The ads repeatedly stated the availability of relocation costs as if it was a foregone conclusion that the candidate will have to be headhunted from abroad, though pinpointed is probably more apt. But if you had any doubt what it was that really mattered, every single advert mentioned the fact that Mrs Pinter had passed away. And if you still were not sure where they expected the candidate to come from, they mentioned a salary of about £90,000 per annum and salaries of that size go to one family only.

What an insult to our entire community. London is simply too intellectually and spiritually impoverished to provide a head-teacher to this academic powerhouse of barely 300 girls which spends almost as much time censoring their books as teaching them. Tens of schools up and down the country, some of them as frum as YHS and frummer, manage with mature local talent who have deservedly earned their positions, but this particular school that denies its pupils anything it does not have to provide will splash out on an unqualified 30-something for this senior post simply because she is a Pinter specimen. What contempt for their long-standing and qualified senior staff that a young nipper of a Pinter with little experience will be lording over them. What callous disregard for the welfare and education of hundreds of girls by appointing a head-teacher with so little to show for. And what rank hypocrisy of its Principal, Pinter himself, who has the effrontery to hold himself out as an authority on education.

This is the Yesodey Hatorah that boasts how it has been educating local children for some 70 years yet only one single family must provide almost all its senior staff. This is a school that spends only 75% of its overall budget, and of that less than half is spent directly on its pupils, yet pays its Pinter staff in the upper level of the bands even while it reduces pupil numbers. This is the school that despite its low numbers requires a full time Principal and Head Teacher and who if they are not husband and wife must be father and daughter.

YHS head ad, 90kAnd they may have a point. Considering that the majority of the teaching staff are gaggling unqualified teenagers who themselves left the school barely a couple of years ago, an unqualified head teacher just slightly older may be a perfect fit. The only difference, however, is that while the unqualified 18-year old GCSE teachers are dumped in front of a class of 16 year olds and paid next to the minimum wage for the honour, the unqualified head has been imported despite having little to declare but yet she will be paid, if the advert is anything to go by, around £90,000 p.a. without ever having to give a class in her lifetime. Because at YHS Principals and Head Teachers are for welcoming VIPs and solemnly roaming the corridors but that little pesky thing known as teaching is way below them.

Mins, Effect of Principal on app of HT

Hiring teenage teachers and discarding of them a couple of years later carries with it other perks too. It assures that there are few staff to aspire to or challenge the ruling family for any of the top jobs. And anyway who would even want to apply with that lot breathing down your neck. At the meeting when Pinter was considered as Principal, and at which a representative of Hackney Learning Trust was present, the problem with a future head-teacher appointment was discussed. And now it has come to pass.

This is how Pinter was eased in as Principal while his late wife was crowned Head, this is how another daughter was parachuted in as Senco and a panoply of daughters, daughters in law and nieces as teachers and now this latest arrival is to be anointed head teacher. That cynicism can stoop to this level requires a fair bit of experience and this she has seen at close quarters in abundance.

Let's not trouble the Chair of Governors in whose name this fiasco is being carried out, a certain Mr Theo Bibelman. As one of the chief communal undertakers he is the perfect candidate for covering up the rotting carcass he presides over. But let's spare the poor man for the moment as he recuperates from a search for a head teacher that 'stretched across three continents'. No doubt that was Africa, South America and Oceania and even there he must have lost his spectacles if all he could find for the job is a former authority on how to remove chometz crumbs from fridge shelves.

A week before the announcement of Weinberg's appointment, at the school's graduation ceremony and speech day, a letter from Bibelman was read out on his behalf. He couldn't deign show up in person for some silly 16 year old girlies just like not a single governor showed their shameful faces either. Not even the Principal, Pinter, on his fat wage, who otherwise pops up for the opening of a lemonade bottle,  graced the event with his appearance. Yet Weinberg was in the audience. Nevertheless, Bibelman's letter informed mothers that the governors were still in the process of appointing a head-teacher. Still in the process, yeah, of course they were. And how many of the other candidates were in attendance?

But still you think I'm biased and Pinter, aided and abetted by his cronies and stooges, hasn't quite hijacked the school, Weinberg's appointment is down to her incredible precociousness, the many family members in senior positions pure coincidence and otherwise everything is run strictly on merit. So perhaps explain why Pinter has a job at all. He does not spend too much time at the school, he never addresses pupils and appears neither at the start nor at the end of year ceremonies. The only time he is guaranteed to show up is on one of his VIP invitee visits when naturally there are cameras in tow. Yet he draws a full time wage despite the fact that he is both principal of his private schools and dean of his private seminary. A man of many talents, no doubt, and generously funded by the taxpayer.

And he isn't just any principal. With a bunch of do-nothing governors, he is the one who fulfils their duties too. He sees to admissions, to employment, to maintenance, to cheque signing, to external relations and to wherever he can stick a finger in so long that it consolidates his control. But as a governor he wouldn't earn a salary and so Principal suits him just fine especially when he has all the governors and trustees in his pocket.

Sem proposals

But still it's my bias. So consider how Pinter and his Head-teacher wife have been allocated space in the school to set up their own private, fee-paying seminary (6th form), Be'er Miriam, and for which they pay no rent. To make this space available the school reduced the available numbers of pupils thus reducing the ‘problem’ of overcapacity (see excerpt from the minutes above). And yet despite the reduced numbers the Head Teacher's salary kept on rising until it now stands at about £90,000 p.a. And now it is YHS girls who've been thrown to the wolves by being rejected from this very same seminary by a faceless, nameless panel who won't even give you a reason other than 'you don't fit in'.

Mins, hall hire, principal

But that is also not enough. It is Pinter who was responsible for negotiating the wedding hall contract (see above) by which hard-pressed parents and communal organisations are ripped off to the tune of about £2,500+ per event. The contract is between YHS and Simchas Nisuin which is an arm of the UOHC. Pinter is a trustee of UOHC, Lobenstein was chair of governors of YHS at the time and deputy president of UOHC and there was other crossover between members of both organisations but no one declared any interest. Which is how these two communal organisations have effectively conspired to rob us, the community, blind. And all within the law, no doubt.

YHS Trust, contact

Let us make no pretences. This entire process is rigged. The trust which controls the school has a minimal number of 3 trustees, each a long-established Pinter stooge, with the contact none other than Pinter himself at his home address. They in turn appoint a governing body of yet more stooges and cronies who rarely speak up at meetings, on those rare occasions that they bother turning up, who are happy to delegate anything and everything to the Principal, who in his benevolence is happy to take almost everything on. The governing body in its turn elects a chair, previously Joe Lobenstein and now Bibelman, both undertakers of impeccable credentials and each happier than the other to rubber-stamp all that suits the Dear Principal & Co's agenda.

And now for his troubles they have presented Pinter with the ultimate prize by crowning his daughter head teacher and with a masterstroke guaranteeing the succession for the next generation. As a member of one of the school bodies said to a complaining parent: "I know terrible things have been done under this phrase but I am really only following orders." Says it all, really.

But it is not just the governors and trustees who are to blame. The blame must be shared with the Hackney Learning Trust who know exactly what is going on but are too frightened to take Pinter on. With the JC and other newspapers who will quote Pinter incessantly on almost anything but will never try to pierce the veil that shrouds his organisations. With the Jonathan Freedlands and the Lord Glasmans and the bobbies and the machers and the shvitzers who will all come dancing to the Pinter soirees, sip his chareidi kool-aid to show the world how wonderfully inclusive they are but will not raise as much as an eyebrow at his shenanigans. How come he and his family occupy so many positions and how come he has a full time role as principal and yet can be all over town as soon as a lens pops up?

Then there are the organisations like NAJOS, Agudas Yisroel Housing, the London Jewish Forum, adoption agencies, health forums and a multitude of others who will give Pinter seats on their boards and consult with him despite the fact that he will allow no one of any independence anywhere close to his. On top of that there is our fawning media, renowned for its openness and fidelity to truth, who can always be relied on to do his bidding. Instead of thundering headlines at YHS's undisguised contempt these papers will display his picture almost weekly and report extensively on the crowning of his daughter without even a murmur of disgust.

And last but not least is us. Whether we are frightened, suffering from a severe bout of Stockholm Syndrome, or worst of all, apathetic, this could not happen if at some level we did not will it. Like some kind of Candide we have been led to believe that however bad things are it's still the best possible outcome and if not for the blue blood of that family we'd be even worse off.

The plain truth is that we are sheep and for that we deserve nothing better than the wolves we have snarling over us. Bibelman was quoted as saying what a proud appointment this is for YHS. It is not. It is a shameful appointment by a shameless governing body for a shamed community.