Case Studies – The Kane & Miller Families

The Kane Family

Carra & David Kane are thrilled that their son attends Mosaic Jewish Primary School and they share their story of the long journey from the dream to the reality of building the perfect school for their family.

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Watching our son in his Reception Class Hanukah show, my eyes welled up with tears of complete joy. This was the defining moment that we never imagined would be a part of our reality in the government funded school system. Sitting in the audience during the show we thought “Can this really be happening?” Is my son really up there playing King Antiochus? Yes, and it felt incredible!

How did we end up here? Why was this so emotional? How did we start on this journey?  With limited choices in the Wimbledon area, we decided to send our daughter to the best school available which happened to be a Church of England primary school. We are Jewish so our extended family couldn’t understand why we made this choice. Our decision was based on the education she would receive, but we had underestimated the focus of the religious education. We really wanted not only quality education but teaching with a Jewish ethos with more focus on cross communal learning. We began asking ourselves “Why didn’t we have a choice of a school with a Jewish ethos? What can we do to have a Jewish choice?  And so began our involvement in what became Mosaic Jewish Primary School (MJPS).

We are proud to have a child in the first Reception Class at MJPS and look forward to being part of building the first Jewish Primary in South London for over 70 years.

Each week we are invited to share Shabbat with the class. On Friday afternoons, just before the children go home, we come together as a group and see our son in his school environment. Parents of all backgrounds regularly join this enjoyable, short weekly event. It is rare in the current primary school system that parents are offered this treasured time with their children in school and the fact that it’s to welcome the Shabbat, makes it all the more special for us, as a Jewish family.

We are often asked by members of various Jewish communities questions such as “How Jewish is the school?” and “How much Hebrew is taught?”  We are a family where both parents were brought up in Jewish homes and now we maintain a Reform Jewish home. We celebrate Shabbat, attend synagogue and are active members of Wimbledon and District Synagogue. Let us assure you, we feel strongly that the cross communal Jewish ethos is just the right balance for us. The National Curriculum being taught to our son is wonderfully intertwined with the Jewish holidays, cycles and stories such as Noah and the Ark, Joseph and his brothers, Moses in Egypt, Hanukah. The children are regularly exposed to other religions including class trips to a Catholic Church and Buddhist temple in Wimbledon. One of the distinctive features of the school is the genuine sharing of the faiths and beliefs of all children.

The cross communal attitude goes beyond the ethos and the curriculum.  During the holidays, each child made cards for their class mates specifically for the recipients’ religious faith. Our son received numerous Hanukah cards while at the same time he was able to make and give several Christmas cards to his friends. We think it is amazing that the children are being inspired to think about and respect other cultures, heritages and beliefs while at the same time building confidence in their own.

There is no doubt that the children are thriving at MJPS. They are achieving high standards in the basics as well as experiencing enrichment activities and cutting edge opportunities to use technology, solve problems and be active.

Beyond anything we could say about the school, our child’s happiness and endless excitement about school tells us it’s a fabulous place to be.  He runs to the gate every morning and says “Boker Tov” (good morning) to the first person he sees, often his head teacher Mrs Baum who makes an effort to greet the children regularly. He runs up the stairs and jumps right in to one of the activities set out for the children.  Not once have there been any tears!  In fact, most mornings we have to track him down to say goodbye!  After the school holidays, Devin can’t wait to get back to school to see his friends and his teachers. Our son is building a strong Jewish identity while at the same time receiving the highest quality education any parent would be thrilled with.

 

The Miller Family

Our five year old son, Freddie, is a happy, lively little boy who loves being a pupil at Mosaic Jewish Primary School where he started in the founding reception class in September 2013.  

Here’s the tale of our journey to date: from the stage of going to see lots of primary schools to having a non-Jewish child at a new Jewish free school.

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In 2012, as Freddie turned three, we began to explore the world of primary school places in SW London.  We listened to tales from other parents who’d already trodden the same path and then, determined to make up our minds, visited quite a few schools and even toyed with the idea of leaving London altogether.  When we heard that a state Jewish primary school was opening in SW London where half the places are for children of Jewish faith and half are for children of other faiths / beliefs or no faith at all, we were intrigued to find out what the school had to offer.  Our own cultural and religious background is Church of England meets not-particularly-religious so looking into a Jewish school which hadn’t at that stage opened was (excuse the pun) something of a leap of faith.

We went along to an introductory meeting hosted by the headmistress, Mrs Kate Baum, the chair of Governors, Shirley Lee, and a few prospective parents who had been involved with moving the school from inception to reception.  Enthusiasm, professionalism and sheer determination abounded at that meeting and we decided that we were impressed enough to apply for a place at Mosaic for Freddie.

Fast forward a year and Freddie has now been been at Mosaic for five months and we and he couldn’t be happier with our choiceHe runs into school every morning and barely remembers to say goodbye before he’s absorbed in one of the well thought out, fun activities that are set out in the two new, light and airy classrooms.  The school is currently at its temporary site in Wimbledon and will move to a permanent home at 170 Roehampton Lane, SW15 for the school year starting September 2015.  Nevertheless, the current classrooms capture the ethos of the school with music playing on the children’s arrival, photographs of the children on the walls participating in the theme of the week or term, and play areas that sit nicely with what the children are learning (for example, there’s currently an igloo in the corner of the classroom because the children are learning about different cultures and countries, and this week they’re creating their own mini foodmarket so that they can share food from around the world).

Parents are encouraged to come into the classrooms in the morning to settle in their children and to collect them in the afternoon.  It is a very caring and inclusive environment where the dedication and enthusiasm of the staff is evident in the high quality, engaging and fun teaching we’ve seen so far.  Parents are made to feel very included in the school community.  There is good communication, including a weekly newsletter, and social events on a regular basis.  The staff and governors are clearly very excited that the school has its first reception class and they seem utterly committed to the pupils and to making the school a success.

And so: what’s it like having a non-Jewish child at a Jewish school?

Well, Mosaic is a faith school so there is religious learning with Torah [Old Testament] figures and Jewish values woven into the teaching and play.  Freddie has learnt about Hannukah, Noah, Lot, Moses, Joseph and his dreamcoat, and Sarah and Abraham, with the teaching bringing out messages and introducing skills such as how to be good hosts to visitors, how to look after the animals in the ark, thinking about and meeting people who help us such as policemen and doctors; the children have even had a go at weaving (but didn’t quite manage a whole technicolour dreamcoat).  Some Hebrew is taught and the school welcomes in the Sabbath on Friday afternoons – parents and carers are invited to join in so that it really does feel like quite an occasion.  Freddie has embraced the ethos of the school and very much enjoys the Jewish teachings; the Hannukah play was a particular highlight for the whole class.

The pupils also, of course, learn about non-Jewish festivals such as Diwali, and we were pleased that at Christmas the children were taken to a nativity play.  As half the places are for children of Jewish faith and half are for children of other faiths / beliefs or no faith at all, the pupils in the reception class are from a wide range of backgrounds, countries and faiths so the school feels like a very interesting, warm crucible of cultures and, whether you are Jewish or not, your views and contributions are welcomed and feel valued.

A faith school may not be everybody’s cup of tea but for us the Jewish ethos is a part of the overall high quality teaching, staff and facilities and seems to broaden and enhance Freddie’s (and our) learning and enjoyment.  If I were a four year old being offered the caring, fun and skilled environment of Mosaic then I would certainly also be running into school every morning, and for us a happy, settled child equals happy parents.

 

Formerly South London Jewish Primary School

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