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Examiners sought to save Hebrew

A shortage of examiners is threatening the future of GCSE Hebrew.

The Northern Examinations and Assessment Board, the only one which offers the GCSE, is prepared to abandon the subject unless at least eight teachers who can write and evaluate an exam paper come forward in the next two weeks.

The crisis in Hebrew comes amid problems with other minority languages. Ukrainian has been dropped, while the Polish community is searching to find funding and fresh examiners.

The Jewish community finally came up with the Pounds 21,500 needed to fund the exam in February, but it has struggled to find the examiners.

"The vast majority of Hebrew teachers do not have the relevant qualifications ," said Laurie Rosenberg, education officer at the Board of Deputies which represents the Jewish community. The NEAB wants examiners to have at least five years' teaching experience and at least three years as an examiner. It would also prefer them to have taught a further modern language.

"Hebrew in Jewish schools is mainly taught by natives who do not have that sort of experience," Mr Rosenberg said. The Jewish community remains committed to modern Hebrew and more than 350 pupils take the GCSE each year. Their headteachers will be forced to seek an alternative certificate if the GCSE is abandoned.

The delay in coming up with candidates means that there will be no syllabus ready in September for the 1998 GCSE.

Don Leeming of the NEAB, said the community had missed that deadline. "In my wildest and most optimistic dreams we couldn't get anything to the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority before October," he said.

Until now the NEAB has used only one examiner for Hebrew, but it now plans to bring it into line with other modern languages.

Hasmonean school in London enters 150 pupils for the exam each year. Headteacher Dina Coleman said the school would persevere with the language whatever the fate of the GCSE. "Hebrew is very important to our students, culturally, and because many visit Israel and some go on to live there. "

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