Faith schools are an important – and growing –part of the educational landscape in Redbridge. The increasing diversity of our community has seen Hindu, Sikh and Muslim schools open alongside their longer-standing Christian and Jewish counterparts. So it will be of concern to many Jewish parents in my constituency that the relocation of the Kantor King Solomon High School is being actively considered by its foundation body, the United Synagogue.
King Solomon was established in 1993 and spreads across an impressive campus in Barkingside, in no small part thanks to several generous benefactors, including its honorary life president, Lord (Alan) Sugar. The campus has recently extended to include a relocated Wohl Ilford Jewish Primary School on the same site – about a 10 minute walk from our other Jewish primary school, Clore Tikva.
Since its creation, the school has enjoyed academic success, as well as counting among its alumni Waterloo Road actress Katie Griffiths, X Factor finalist Stacey Solomon and footballer Jack Payne. Although it has experienced some turbulence in its leadership, this hasn’t dented the ambition or success of its pupils. Under the leadership of its new dynamic head, Matthew Slater, this year’s GCSE results were the best the school has ever had: 77 percent of pupils gained grades between A* and C in English and maths. King Solomon’s A-levels were similarly impressive, with 75 percent of students achieving grades A* to C, placing the school in the top 25 percent of schools nationally.
Question marks about King Solomon’s future in Redbridge seem to arise as a result of two factors: a decline in the proportion of Jewish students in the school’s intake and a shortage of school places for Jewish pupils elsewhere in north London.
It is true that the Jewish community in Redbridge is smaller than it was in previous decades, but the Jewish community in Redbridge and Chigwell is thriving nonetheless.
We see this through our two Jewish primary schools, our active Reform, Liberal and Orthodox synagogues and through Redbridge Jewish Community Centre, which has exciting and ambitious plans to expand its services into a wider Jewish campus in the heart of Redbridge. Jewish parents raising their families in Redbridge deserve the peace of mind to know that their children will be able to attend a successful Jewish secondary school at King Solomon for many years to come.
The school’s diverse intake should be seen as a strength. London is a diverse, international city. A diverse intake broadens horizons, enables understanding and promotes community cohesion. At King Solomon, this has not been at the expense of its Jewish ethos. This year, it saw an impressive 85 per cent of pupils achieve grades A* to C in Jewish Studies, no doubt owing to excellent teaching on the course, as well as a wide range of extracurricular opportunities.
The shortage of Jewish school places in north London does need to be addressed, and I welcome the news that there will be a review of Jewish education in north-east London. It would be a travesty for Redbridge’s Jewish community if we were to lose such a successful Jewish secondary school from our own doorstep.