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Is Jewish education losing its appeal in the UK?

Author(s): Brigitta Horup, Carli Lessof and Jonathan Boyd
Date: 08 December 2021

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The number of Jewish pupils enrolled in Jewish schools has been climbing consistently for several decades and has increased significantly since the mid-1990s. This rise, described in previous JPR Jewish schools bulletins, has taken place in both the ‘mainstream’ and the ‘strictly Orthodox’ sectors. However, JPR’s new schools bulletin reports that, while the number of registered pupils in 2021/21 shows an overall increase of 1,612 pupils on three years previously, the growth rate has moderated in recent years, nearly flattening within the mainstream sector.

“These new findings are already playing an important role in helping community leaders to plan the future of Jewish education in this country”, says Dr Jonathan Boyd, Executive Director of JPR. “The clear slowdown in growth in the mainstream sector, particularly at primary level, urgently needs to be understood to ensure that all Jewish children who wish to be educated within the Jewish school system can continue to be offered that opportunity.”

Some of the key findings in this report:

  • 35,825 Jewish pupils were studying in 133 Jewish schools in the academic year 2020/21. This represents an increase of 1,612 pupils, or 4.7%, since 2017/18.
  • 60% of Jewish pupils in Jewish schools are in strictly Orthodox schools; 40% are in non-strictly Orthodox or ‘mainstream’ Jewish schools, a slight shift from 58% to 42% three years previously.
  • Almost three-quarters of all Jewish pupils in Jewish schools are in schools in Greater London or South Hertfordshire (73.3%) – a drop from 74.6% in the 2017/18 academic year that is influenced by a shift towards Manchester (27% to 29%) and away from London (67% to 65%) in the strictly Orthodox sector.
  • The geographical distinction between London and elsewhere is most pronounced in the mainstream Jewish sector, where 86% attend schools in London or the surrounding area.
  • Overall, there has been growth in the numbers of both primary and secondary school pupils since 2017/18, but this conceals a fall in primary pupil numbers for the mainstream Jewish sector over the last two academic years.