Jewish headship is open to gentiles

A faith school, advertising a year early for a headteacher, is looking for tolerance, writes Helen Ward

GOVERNORS of a Jewish school praised for its multicultural stance are searching for a new head to start - in a year's time.

Estelle Lesser will be retiring from King David primary in Birmingham next summer after 37 years at the school, including 13 years as head.

And chair of governors Dr Michael Wolffe has advertised early in the hope of securing an inspiring head for the 249-pupil Jewish school.

He said: "We are a Jewish school with a difference. We have always had a mix of pupils and the largest minority in the school is Muslim. The school is an example to the world of how people from different religious backgrounds can get on."

He added: "Getting heads is notoriously difficult for all schools. Obviously we would like a Jewish head but in Birmingham we do not have a great pool of Jewish candidates."

He said that being Jewish was less important than being an outstanding candidate. The governors are willing to appoint a non-Jewish head, but insist candidates are sympathetic to the school's Jewish ethos.

He said: "I think the anxiety among Jewish parents may be that the school could lose Jewish identity - we are determined it should not."

Government statistics from January show there were 530 nursery and primary headteacher's posts vacant or filled temporarily. Recruitment in faith schools can be difficult. A survey by the University of North London last year found that Catholic and Anglican schools struggled to fill senior posts.

About 40 per cent of pupils at King David school are Jewish. The majority of non-Jewish children are Muslim and there are also Hindu, Sikh and Christian children.

Mrs Lesser said: "People from all religions say they like the ethnic mix and religious ethos at the school and we have high academic standards."

The school's Office for Standards in Education report praised the school's racial harmony.

Half of its pupils arrive with English as an additional language. In 2001, 90 per cent of 11-year-olds reached the expected level 4 in English and 77 per cent reached the same level in maths.

* For application forms contact Birmingham City Council's Response Handling Unit on 0121 464 6488 (24-hour answerphone) and quote reference ES24T.

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