Liverpool's new #163;25m Jewish campus will be crowned King of Europe

27th November 2009 at 00:00
Building work starts on the continent's largest facility of its kind, including two schools, a kindergarten and synagogue

The largest Jewish educational campus in Europe, including two state schools and a kindergarten, is being built in Liverpool.

The #163;25 million scheme will create new facilities for the city's King David High School, which has the lowest proportion of Jewish pupils at any Jewish secondary school in the country.

The school is heavily oversubscribed, but just 17 per cent of its students are Jewish, reflecting the dwindling population in the city. At its peak, around 80 per cent of pupils followed the faith.

Brigid Smith, the school's headteacher, said it would get facilities fit to deliver a modern curriculum, including improved IT, flexible spaces and better sports facilities.

As well as providing new buildings for the King David primary and high schools, a community and youth centre will also be rebuilt as part of the project. Building work has now started and is expected to be completed in 18 months.

The campus also includes Childwall Synagogue. While it is believed to be the largest Jewish campus in Europe, there are bigger Jewish schools in the UK. The King David primary and high schools have a combined pupil population of around 1,100. JFS, formerly the Jewish Free School, in Brent, north London, has around 2,000 students.

Admissions at Jewish schools have come under intense scrutiny recently following a legal challenge over the admissions code at JFS.

The north London school has appealed its case to the Supreme Court after being found guilty of racial discrimination for refusing to admit a boy whose mother was not officially recognised as Jewish. The court's final decision has not yet been published.

Admissions at King David are filled by pupils who follow a religious faith. The biggest single group are Christians, although there are also a small number of Muslim, Hindu and Sikh children.

It is intended that the new facilities will be open to the whole local community. Around #163;20 million for the rebuild has come from the Building Schools for the Future programme, with the rest raised by the King David Foundation.

Max Steinberg, chair of the campus group at King David, said: "I am delighted that our vision is now becoming a reality. The development will be a major asset to the community and provide a landmark building which we will all be proud of."

Faith schools crack cohesion, says study

Faith schools are more successful at promoting community cohesion than those without a religious ethos, according to controversial research commissioned by the Church of England.

The evaluation compared Ofsted inspections between March and June this year. The grades awarded to faith and non-faith primary schools were the same. In secondaries, however, the 74 faith schools inspected received an average grade of 1.86, where 1 is "outstanding" and 2 "good". The 271 community schools received an average mark of 2.31, according to the research.

Professor Jesson of York University, who conducted the research, said this countered claims that faith schools contribute to greater community segregation.

But Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, dismissed the findings: "Common sense tells you it can't be right to separate children on the grounds of their parents' religion," he said. "It has to be looked at school by school, not an average grade."

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