“Every child has a talent – it is our job to find out what it is.” That was the mantra of Dr Dena Coleman, the first and founding headteacher of Yavneh College, who so tragically passed away in 2013.
It was those words that ran through my mind as we welcomed the Prince of Wales to our school, at the start of a year in which we celebrate our tenth anniversary.
I have never felt as proud or confident that Dena’s legacy endures than when watching Prince Charles interact with Yavneh students – each one enthusiastically sharing with him their unique passion for Jewish education and social responsibility.
It is remarkable to think that we started in 2006 with barely 90 children. We were ambitious even then and it was always Dena’s dream to open a primary school to complement the secondary school.
Our application for funding to open a primary school was turned down in 2011, but we persevered and, fast forward to last September, we finally opened Yavneh Primary School with our first cohort of 60 wonderful children who welcomed His Royal Highness this week with wide smiles and Union Jack flags.
Dena, together with the Jewish studies team, recognised the importance of Jewish education not simply running in parallel to secular studies but being an integral part of what Yavneh College is and infusing every aspect of school life. Outstanding formal religious education is coupled with the most creative informal Jewish education to instil in our students a sense of enthusiasm for their identity.
But more than that, since its inception, Yavneh College has placed particular emphasis on community service – both within the Jewish community and without. This week, students proudly displayed for HRH and the Chief Rabbi the toys they were making for a children’s hospital ward, the food being prepared for a food bank, their interfaith projects and volunteering efforts.
Under the inspirational leadership of our headteacher, Spencer Lewis, Jewish life, academic excellence and community service are, more than ever, the three defining characteristics of Yavneh College. I have no doubt that was what caught the Prince’s attention and I know just how proud Dena would be that her dream has been realised.