Schools

Jewish schools get extra cash for security

The government said it is 'very concerned' some schools have closed due to safety fears

The government said it is 'very concerned' some schools have closed due to safety fears

Jewish schools will get extra security guards after the government gave £3 million to keep pupils safe amid rising antisemitic incidents following the violence in Israel.

Security and police patrols had already been increased, with pupils in some schools told to take off blazers in case it led to abuse.

Detentions have been cancelled and school trips have also been postponed.

Three schools in London have closed, the BBC reported.

The Community Security Trust (CST), which provides protection for Jewish communities in the UK, said there had been 139 antisemitic incidents since Hamas launched an attack on Israel at the weekend.

At this time last year there had been 21 incidents.

While there is no breakdown on school-specific figures, CST said a group of children in an unnamed school “cornered a Jewish pupil, said they were ‘Jewphobic’ and blamed him for the killings of Palestinians”.

The £3 million boosts this year’s government funding for the Jewish Community Protection Security scheme to £18 million. The extra cash will help provide more guards outside schools.

A government spokesperson said it was “very concerned a small number of Jewish faith schools have temporarily closed due to fears about safety”.

It would work closely with them and other Jewish faith school providers to “support them to open safely”.

It is also writing to all schools to “outline advice on managing sensitive discussions around antisemitism, and are urgently reviewing whether additional support is needed”.

‘Heightened vigilance’

Melanie Lee, the headteacher at the Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS) in Hertfordshire, told parents this week there would be “heightened vigilance”, an increase in its school security team and enhanced entrance checks.

A dedicated space has been created so pupils “can talk to someone throughout the day but especially at break and lunch times” as many members of the school community were “deeply and personally affected”.

The Metropolitan Police is increasing its presence at schools and synagogues and will investigate any instances of hate or harassment.

David Moody, the head of the Jewish Free School in north London, said he would understand any pupil’s decision not to wear a blazer.

In an extract of his letter to parents, published by the radio station LBC, Moody added: “The most important thing is to ensure the safe passage of students between home and school and to make sure that this school is set up to care for our children during the school day.

‘No detentions’

“To that end, there will be no after-school detentions this week so that we can make sure everyone is able to access the school buses should this be their normal route home.” Two former JFS pupils died in Israel this week.

Steven Lewis, head of the Yavneh College in Hertfordshire, already has a four-strong security team, CCTV and high fencing. He said they were “vigilant and a little anxious”.

“I have run a number of assemblies throughout the week to talk about how intrinsic the concept of peace is for us as Jews, it sits at the heart of our daily prayers, it is how we greet each other and how we part from each other every day of the week.”

King David High School in Manchester said there was a drop in attendance on Monday, but the Guardian said numbers had since risen.

John Dalziel, its head, said: “Our main priority is that our school is a place of safety where normal life is continuing away from the 24-hour news cycle.”

Patrick Moriarty, a former head of JCoSS, said leaders would be working hard to promote pupils’ safety “emotionally, physically, educationally and spiritually”.

‘Head are not alone’

Guidance for heads from the Partnerships for Jewish Schools (PaJeS) says children’s fears should “not be dismissed but need to be recognised and addressed with sensitivity”.

It was important staff were “reassured” that everything was being done to ensure “a safe and secure environment”.

The guidance said heads were not alone. They were not “trained experts in security or psychological matters” and were not expected “to have all the answers”.

Rabbi David Meyer, PaJeS chief executive, said during the last conflict, there were many Jewish children in mainstream schools who felt deeply uncomfortable by pro-Palestine demonstrations.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said teacher forums, such as on Facebook, “could become not only politically charged and rife with rhetoric, but also be sharing and promoting the use of biased or anti-Israel resources for use in the classroom.

“This is not only problematic educationally but potentially intimidating for Jewish teachers.”

DfE guidance on political impartiality, published last year, says school leaders must not promote partisan political views in teaching and should offer a balanced presentation of opposing views when political issues were raised.

The DfE said this week that it expects schools to deal with antisemitic incidents at school with “all due seriousness” in line with behaviour policies.

It is monitoring concerns regarding an increase in antisemitic incidents affecting young people in education, it added.

Rishi Sunak said the Jewish community had “our complete backing”.

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