The numbers of children in Jewish schools in the UK continue to rise, as they have done for decades. Part of the reason for that is simply the demographic growth of the Charedi community – high birth rates there mean more children, more children mean a need for more school places, and in the Charedi context, that inevitably means more Jewish school places.
But the rise isn’t only happening in the Charedi sector. It is happening across the community.
More Jewish children of all types are going to Jewish schools of all types.
Jewish parents are choosing Jewish schools for four main reasons: because the schools often get decent academic results; because many are state schools and therefore low cost; they want their children to have Jewish friends; and they want their children to have strong Jewish identities.
Yet the question of how effective British Jewish schools are in terms of cultivating robust Jewish identities in their pupils remains somewhat moot.
Research indicates that Jewish schools are highly effective in terms of helping Jewish children to make Jewish friends and build Jewish social lives – both essential components of Jewishness.
“…the rise isn’t just taking place in the Charedi sector..”
But the jury is still out on the extent to which they cultivate stronger Jewish identities in terms of increased religious observance or active community engagement.
While children in Jewish schools score higher than those in non-Jewish schools in these respects, that is largely because they come from families with stronger Jewish
identities to start with.
So it tends to be the home rather than the school that drives these behaviours, alongside other core Jewish experiences, particularly gap year programmes in Israel.
The likelihood is that we will continue to see Jewish school numbers rise. Whether the strength of young people’s Jewish identities rises in tandem remains to be seen.