In a Jewish School, in addition to the timetable allocation for secular subjects, one has to timetable the Jewish subjects. There are two ways of doing this. The first is to have a longer school day and the second, if one wants the same length school day, is to cut down the time allocated for secular subjects.
With the obsession of getting as many public examination results as possible - (nothing else is important!) - the second option is a non-starter. The school day must be lengthened. But there is a problem when there are nearly two hundred non-Jewish pupils in the school. Either the Jewish pupils will go home later than their non-Jewish counterparts, which will have the effect of making them think they are being kept back in school, or the Jewish pupils must get up earlier and arrive in school before the non-Jews. Neither option is conducive to making pupils like Jewish Studies!
This was the dilemma when the King David High School was opened. Let me quote from a report written by the Headmaster to the Governors in October 1971:
When the School first opened, Religious Education classes for Jewish pupils were held during the lunch-hour and after 4 o’clock. About seven years ago [about 1964] certain members of the secular staff pointed out to Dr. Fisher [the then Headmaster] that this arrangement was not a happy one. They found it impossible to organise extra-curricular activities since Jewish pupils were not normally available during the lunch-hour or after 4 o’clock. Those Jewish pupils who took school dinner were left with only about ten minutes free time between morning school and afternoon and were hardly in a good frame of mind to undertake their afternoon lessons. Furthermore, Jewish pupils resented having to stay behind at 4 o’clock when their non-Jewish friends were leaving to go home. Another disadvantage of that system, of which the secular staff were probably unaware, was that the concentration of Religious Education at mid-day and 4 o’clock required the presence of a large number of Religious Education staff simultaneously. This involved the employment of a number of persons for a very short period during the day. Some of them had little or no qualification to teach and their attachment to the school was necessarily a slight one. All these factors militated against good discipline.
Dr. Fisher devised a new system and secured the agreement of the staff to an earlier start of the school day. The non-Jewish staff agreed to supervise the non-Jewish pupils between 08.55 and 09.30. This system slightly modified, has operated until now. The day’s programme is as follows:-
8.45 to 8.55 – Registration
8.55 to 9.30 - Assembly period...
These Assembly periods were basically used for the Religious Instruction of the Jewish pupils or Shacharit services. For the Christian pupils, the time was divided between a Christian Assembly and supervised private study.
The crucial point here was that school began at the same time for both Jewish and non-Jewish pupils. There was no question of Jewish pupils having to come in earlier for Religious Instruction.
However during 1971, dissatisfaction spread among the non-Jewish staff. They were working half-an-hour per day longer than most teachers in Liverpool “and they did not see why they should continue to do so.” The Headmaster pointed out the advantages of working in the King David. However in October 1971, a large majority of the non-Jewish staff resolved: “It is the wish of the full-time staff of this school to return to the working of the normal five-and-a-half hour day with effect from the 1st January, 1972.”
Amongst his observations, the Headmaster wrote: “Whatever our legal rights in the matter I think it would be to the detriment of the School and of the Community to engage in a tussle in which the unions would be bound to take the teachers’ side and which would almost certainly attract publicity in the local and possibly national press.”
The Headmaster therefore proposed that the Jewish pupils would have to come in before their non-Jewish counterparts and that the Jewish Studies period taking place in the period called “Assembly” period would be before the official school day began. The Governors accepted the Headmaster’s proposal. Put bluntly - back to square one, like when the High School first opened.
All this took place just before I joined the school.
In October 1971, Rabbi Solomon had put forward a proposal to solve this problem. He felt that the school should have a daily Jewish service for all Jewish pupils. In his proposals, he suggested a “full service for Jewish pupils daily” and it would “be compulsory up to and including at least the fourth year.” As far as timetabling Jewish Studies periods within the official school day, he proposed dropping one of the option groups in the 4th and 5th years which would still leave a pupil able to take 9 O-levels which he considered “should suffice for anyone.” This arrangement, he wrote would leave two periods “for the much to be desired development of projects in art, music and crafts.”
When I stayed in his house that November, he gave me a copy of this proposal of his and I added some comments of my own in ink on my copy. Amongst my comments was that the daily service should be compulsory for the entire school.
As was to be expected, Rabbi Solomon’s proposals were not accepted. It would mean cutting out one secular subject! This was taboo with the Governors and the Headmaster.
When I officially took up my position in January 1972, some of the Jewish Studies periods were included in the timetable and others took place before the official start of the school day and were called “Assembly periods.” In the 1st year there was a total of 7 periods, in the 2nd year there were 6 periods and in the 3rd year there were 5 periods. In the 4th and 5th years, Jewish Studies plus Modern Hebrew only had just 3 periods in the timetable. Any additional lessons would have to be given outside the timetable. Contrast this with any other subject, whether it be English or Physics or German or woodwork or cookery, each of which had 5 periods in the timetable. For the 6th forms, when I came to the school, the Headmaster had not time-tabled any period for Jewish Studies! When one wanted to teach 6th form pupils Jewish Studies it was necessary to find out when the pupils had a free period!
Soon after I joined the King David, the Inspector of the ZFET wrote a letter to the Headmaster in which he complained about the few periods devoted to Modern Hebrew, which had only 3 periods a week in the first three years. I quite agree that the number is small. Why should French have 5 periods and Modern Hebrew just 3? Since the Headmaster objected to taking periods from secular subjects, the Inspector tried a different track. Why should Modern Hebrew have fewer periods than Jewish Studies? He thus suggested taking periods from Jewish Studies and giving them to Modern Hebrew.
I was “very disturbed,” to put it mildly, by this suggestion of his. I pointed out in my written reply that “whereas Modern Hebrew is only one subject, Jewish Studies ... is a generic term for at least a dozen subjects” and that Modern Hebrew has far more time devoted to it each week than Chumash or Jewish History or Mishnah. I continued that I thus found “it very difficult to understand why ... [the Inspector] suggests that time be given to Modern Hebrew from the Jewish Studies periods.” After this reply of mine, in which I totally rejected his proposal, he never raised it again!
In September 1972, the Chief Rabbi made a visit to Liverpool and he was quite shocked when he heard about the number of periods each class had. He stated that no other Jewish school devoted so few hours to Jewish subjects as the King David High School did, and that even in South America and Scandinavia, where the level of Jewish identification was far below that of Britain, the hours devoted to Jewish Studies had been greatly stepped up. He then said that the School should radically increase the hours to be devoted to Jewish Studies and that the resistance of parents should not be overrated. The Chief Rabbi knew what he was talking about - he had made a special study of Jewish education both in Britain and abroad.
Sadly, his comments fell on deaf ears! The Chairman of the Governors, who was out of town when the Chief Rabbi came, was annoyed that the Jewish education at the school was going to be discussed with the Chief Rabbi. He felt that only the Governors had the right to discuss those matters!
In January 1973, Rabbi Solomon circulated his comments in connection with the Hebrew and Religious Education Budget of the King David Foundation 1973/4. He wrote:
The distribution of lessons between assembly periods (10% of the day, but 45% of the lessons) and ‘normal’ teaching periods (90% per cent of the day, but only 55% of the lessons) is manifestly absurd ... As I have frequently pointed out, the straightforward and perfectly simple remedy for this is to spread Jewish Studies periods through the school day evenly, at the expense of sacrificing two or three periods of other studies. This, after all, is what a Jewish School is for....
I must take this opportunity to protest in the strongest possible terms against the practice of appointing unqualified teachers to the staff, either full-time or part-time. Nobody would do this in any other department, as it is now illegal. But the prestige and efficiency of the Jewish departments in the school are continually being lowered by this inexcusable malpractice...
Even though the last paragraph was directed against me, I was very surprisingly not handed a copy. I saw one just by chance about a month later. I immediately gave my answers in writing. I was in complete agreement with his first paragraph regarding the distribution of Jewish Studies periods throughout the day. In answer to his last paragraph, I wrote:
From the last paragraph of Dr. Solomon’s comments it is implied that this ‘inexcusable malpractice’ of employing non-qualified teachers was begun during my term of office and that in the time of my predecessor [Dr. Solomon] everybody was qualified! May I therefore quote from a report written by Rabbi Dr. Solomon whilst he was Director of Jewish Studies in October 1971. ‘The concentration of Jewish Studies in the assembly period necessitates the utilisation of staff unqualified in the subject.... Since Dr. Solomon left there is in fact a greater concentration of Jewish Studies periods during the assembly period, which requires the finding of a still greater number of teachers.
It is therefore very difficult to understand how Dr. Solomon, who experienced similar problems as Director of Jewish Studies and had to improvise with similar solutions, can ‘protest in the strongest possible terms against this practice’ and even go as far as calling it an ‘inexcusable malpractice’.
The finding of numerous teachers for the Assembly periods was a nightmare. When I found teachers, they were repulsed by the meager remuneration they received for their services. We managed to find two teachers from the Primary School to help out. When they received their salary, they could not believe the small sum they had received. They contacted the Foundation and told them that they seemed to have made a mistake. “No,” they were told, “there is no mistake.” They kept wanting to stop teaching and I kept persuading them to continue, but eventually they did stop.
Amongst the other teachers I found, was a religious Jewish student training to be a teacher, who was doing his teaching practice in the King David. When it came to holidays, the Foundation did not want to pay them holiday pay. I wrote to the Foundation pointing out that these teachers were doing us a favour and without them we would be lost and they should therefore be paid holiday pay.
A sizable group from the 5th year was skipping the Assembly lessons. I closed a blind eye to it. Had they turned up, I would have had no teacher for them. The Headmaster therefore wanted to officially cancel this period for these pupils. I disagreed. If I had cancelled it, it might have been difficult to reinstate it in the future if I had more teachers.
At a meeting held in November 1972, I said we were “living from day to day.” There was even one period when 12 teachers were required at the same time!
Even the Governors realised the situation had reached an absurdity and they agreed, that for the lower 3 years the periods would be integrated into the timetable. The secular staff were asked to make recommendations on which secular periods could be decreased accordingly. I can’t remember all the details, but one of the cuts was that boys in the 1st year would stop doing metalwork and the girls would stop needlework. Another cut was that one period was taken from French in the 2nd year. After the Headmaster received the recommendations, he sat down with the Deputy Head to consider them. Afterwards he told me, he was “wrestling” with these recommendations and would have to leave one Jewish Studies period for the 3rd year as an Assembly period. In September 1973, these periods were integrated into the timetable.
All this was an improvement on the previous arrangements. But I continued to fight to have the Assembly periods in the 4th and 5th years integrated into the school day. One of the important reasons was the lack of daily Shacharit services for the various classes in the school.
Years 1 to 3 had two days a week to put on Tephillin and daven Shacharit. Even though the Jewish Studies periods for the first three years had been integrated into the school day, the Jewish Studies staff were occupied with teaching the 4th and 5th years during these Assembly periods and thus could not arrange a service for the lower classes for the other three days. For the 4th and 5th years there were no Shacharit services and no putting on Tephillin. In contrast, all the Christian pupils in the school had 2 Christian prayer services each week! Were there to be no Assembly periods, all Jewish pupils could have had a service and put on Tephillin every day.
The RAC was very concerned indeed about there being no Jewish services for pupils from the 4th year upwards and this matter came up at almost every meeting of this Committee. They pointed out that “this means that once a pupil reaches the age of 14 or so there will be no opportunity for him to lay Tephillin, daven or hear the reading of the Torah. Thus, the effect of teaching these subjects in Jewish Studies is largely nullified and pupils start wondering why these subjects were ever included in the syllabuses. An inquiry with the 4th year boys reveals that almost ALL have STOPPED laying Tephillin.” They considered it “unfortunate that the Governors do not seem to be sufficiently concerned” with this fact. The RAC even stated that “the non-holding of such services contravenes section 25 of the 1944 Education Act” and asked “from where do the Governors get the power to over-ride Acts of Parliament.” The Governors never even attempted to give answers to this question. It would seem that they had none.
On this question, I had pointed out in both 1974 and 1975, that “there is an extremely positive approach to [the Jewish] services by the present 3rd year” and that they “were also very keen” on them. It was therefore very important to include them in the timetable for the following year’s 4th year, “otherwise there will be pupils who will stop [laying] Tephillin and davening.”
At the beginning of 1974, I began “intensive campaigning” for the integration of the 4th and 5th year Assembly periods into the timetable. I began by writing an open letter to the Headmaster complaining about the unsatisfactory nature of periods before the school day, and pointing out that even with the Assembly periods the pupils had fewer lessons in Jewish Studies than in secular subjects, and that with the 4th and 5th year periods taking place simultaneously during these Assembly periods there were staffing problems. I went on the say that “with the acceptance of my new O-level and CSE syllabuses this problem has become far more acute since the examination is no longer just a knowledge of the Scriptures (which could partially be achieved as a home reader) but an understanding of the principles and laws contained in the Bible and this requires class periods. The Jewish Studies staff are now repeatedly pointing out to me that it is quite impossible to get through the new syllabus with the present arrangement of periods.”
My proposal was similar to that of Rabbi Solomon’s of October 1971, although I suggested that one could retain 5 lines of options with 4 periods each or 4 lines of options with 5 periods each. Whilst the Jewish pupils were learning Jewish Studies, the non-Jewish pupils could be doing a compulsory craft subject for O-level or CSE.
I also, at that period, made a study of how many lessons were devoted to Jewish subjects in the 4th and 5th years by other Jewish schools (including JFS, Carmel College and Hasmonean Boys) in the country and after quoting the various facts and figures concluded:
The number of lessons devoted to Jewish subjects in the fourth and fifth years of our school is far fewer than in other Jewish schools in the country.
In other Jewish schools, lessons outside the official school hours are voluntary additional lessons. In our school they are compulsory and considered as part of the quota of lessons for the Jewish subjects....
The Chairman of the Governors, when he received a copy of my memorandum, told me that I had put my case well. In the discussions we had together on this question, I would often ask him why Jewish subjects had to be a “Cinderella” in a Jewish school.
A further open letter went backwards and forwards between the Headmaster and myself. The Headmaster claimed that the Assembly periods were just as good as other periods. “You take a very gloomy view, which I do not share,” he wrote, “of the so-called assembly periods.” In answer to the Headmaster, I can say that I taught these periods for a number of years; I should know!
Had the Headmaster admitted that these Assembly periods were inferior, he would have had to integrate them into the timetable, which would have meant cutting down the time devoted to secular periods. This he was not prepared to do. In fact he once said to me that if the secular periods were cut down, he would resign from the school.
The Headmaster argued that we could not “impose” a craft subject on the non-Jewish pupils “just because they happen to be Christians attending a Jewish school.” To this I answered: “At present, non-Jewish pupils in the first three years study classics, craft, drama, extra P.E. etc. whilst the Jewish pupils are studying Jewish subjects. No-one has yet used the word ‘impose’ in connection with these lessons. Why then should it be used when they are studying them in the fourth and fifth years?”
Additional support for this proposal of mine came from a completely different source. With absolutely no connection with Jewish subjects or this particular Assembly periods problem, an “options working party,” which comprised a number of members of staff (including the Headmaster and myself) had just completed a study of the “option lines” in the 4th and 5th years. They had found that every non-Jewish pupil in the top stream of the 4th year would have liked to study a craft subject.
In answer to my comment regarding the lack of periods to prepare the pupils for the Scripture Knowledge O-level and CSE, the Headmaster suggested beginning to teach the pupils for these examinations in the 3rd year. Since he was not prepared to give additional periods for Jewish Studies in the 3rd year, adopting his proposal would have meant cutting out subjects such as Siddur or Dinim, which I was not prepared to do.
In my first letter, I had argued that due to staff pressures during the Assembly Periods, there were “over 160 pupils of varying standards and abilities” in “one assembly with only one or two members of staff.” To this the Headmaster replied that “I have no difficulty in conducting [alone] the Jewish Junior assembly on Tuesday...” This was not a question of discipline, but as I pointed out to him, it was a question of the pupils obtaining “maximum benefit” which would require splitting the assembly.
One should note that in his open letter, the Headmaster made no attempt to justify Jewish subjects having fewer lessons than any secular subject.
In order to “increase” the time allocated to Jewish Studies, the Headmaster would progressively start the Assembly periods earlier. But this had disastrous consequences elsewhere.
Until the summer of 1976, there had been a flourishing voluntary Shacharit service in the Bet David. It began at about 8.15 in the morning (pupils were not prepared to arrive any earlier) and finished at about 8.45 on a non-leining day and about 8.55 on a leining day. This Minyan was gaining in strength and in the period between January 1975 and July 1976, it was very rare for there to be a day without a Minyan. However as a result of the Assembly periods beginning progressively earlier - by about 13 minutes over the course of 4 and a half years - the Assembly periods started to encroach on the time previously allocated to the service. This in turn caused the pupils to be late for their Assembly lesson, which was sometimes a Modern Hebrew period. Pressure thus started to be exerted on the pupils who attended these services by the Modern Hebrew staff. Pupils got into trouble and were even detained. I gave repeated warnings that this was happening but nothing was done. The result was that the pupils ceased attending the Shacharit service and the Minyan had to be finally disbanded.
Various other ideas were put forward during this period such as flexi-time for all the staff which would have the effect of lengthening the school day but preserving a five and a half hour working day for the teachers. Another idea was halving the length of the lunch break for the 4th and 5th years on certain days. Yet another idea was to integrate three Assembly periods into the timetable and put three secular lessons in their place. All these ideas were rejected for various reasons either by the staff or by the Governors.
At an extraordinary meeting of the general Staff Association held in June 1974, this whole question was thoroughly discussed and the following resolution was unanimously passed: “The general principle was then reiterated that the Governors should decide the priorities of a Jewish School. Religious Studies should be established within the curriculum of a forty period week and the secular curriculum built around the requirements of Jewish Studies.”
Although I had a number of differences of opinion with the ZFET, there was one thing we agreed on and that was that the Assembly periods had to go! At a meeting of the Jewish Studies sub-Committee where Levi Gertner was present, he proposed a compromise - integrate two of the five assembly periods into the timetable. The meeting agreed. All that was now needed was to obtain the approval of the Governors. We all thought this would be a mere formality.
The Headmaster obviously did not like the idea. What did he do? He called a Staff meeting and asked all the heads of departments to send in their comments on how this would affect their departments, especially with regard to examinations. He then collated the results, did not show them to myself or the head of Modern Hebrew so that we could make our observations, but sent them straight to the Governors. Eight departments did not pass in comments, and some heads of departments who did were of the impression that they would lose a period in both the 4th and 5th years, which was not the case! If a situation is misunderstood, comments on it cannot be relied upon.
I realised that everything wasn’t going to go smoothly. I therefore spoke to the secretary of the Jewish Studies sub-Committee, who was also a Manager of the Primary School, and asked him to go to the meeting to help ensure that Levi Gertner’s proposal got passed. I should mention that Governors had been permitted to attend Managers’ meetings and vice versa. However, he told me that this arrangement had just been stopped and he therefore would not be able to attend. I therefore contacted Levi Gertner and asked him to come to Liverpool and attend the Governor’s meeting - they would not throw him out of the meeting since his organisation gave a lot of money annually to the King David Foundation! I told him it was very important that he be there, since if he were there they would not reject this proposal. He made no promises. He did not come but he tried to telephone Henry Lachs, but not being able to speak to him left a message. Lachs guessed I was behind this and was rather angry with me. The Governors did not pass the integration of two assembly periods but said they would set up a committee to look into this question.
I asked the secretary of the Jewish Studies sub-Committee whether we could appeal this rejection of integration by the Governors. At first he thought that since the Jewish Studies sub-Committee was a Foundation sub-Committee, the Foundation could do something about it, but afterwards he said that by virtue of the 1944 Education Act, the Governors had absolute power in this respect.
A few months later, I asked Henry Lachs what had happened with the sub-Committee to look into the integration. He simply answered that the Governors had decided not to set it up!
On one occasion, I asked Lachs if I could address a Governors’ meeting on this question, but I was refused.
I did not let the matter rest at this. I again brought the matter up some months later. I also invited one of the less religious Governors to my house for an exchange of views on this matter. He readily came and we had a discussion, but I couldn’t change his opinion on cutting out a few secular periods.
At the beginning of May 1975, Henry Lachs, the Chairman of the Governors wrote to the Headmaster:
..The [Jewish Studies sub-] Committee again reaffirmed its views that this was an unsatisfactory situation and that at least 2 of the 5 Assembly periods should be brought into the regular school-day. The Governors’ representatives who were present accepted (as we have in the past) the force of this recommendation. For myself I believe it is a reasonable indeed unanswerable request.
I would therefore like you to accept that we have committed ourselves to the proposition that two of the Assembly periods in 4th and 5th years should be incorporated in the regular school-day. I would like you in conjunction with the staff to give immediate attention to the best method of implementing the proposal....
I heard this letter read out at a general Staff Association meeting, but I wanted a copy of it. At a meeting of the RAC, I asked one of the members to request from the Headmaster this letter for the purpose of studying it at the meeting. The Headmaster complied. I immediately scribbled out a copy since I wasn’t sure whether I would have an opportunity to photocopy it. However immediately after the meeting, I rushed to the photocopying room and photocopied it. I then went to return it to the Headmaster but he said that I could keep it for a while if I liked.
The Governors set up a sub-committee of five of their members to study the question and come up with a solution. Towards the end of May they met in the house of Henry Lachs and unanimously recommended to take the 2 P.E. lessons out of the timetable of the 4th and 5th years and in their place put in 2 Jewish Studies periods. I first heard of this recommendation, I believe on the following day, from one of the Governors who had been present at this meeting.
A few days later Henry Lachs came to the school and spoke to the P.E. staff. I afterwards saw the P.E. mistress sitting on an armchair in the staff room almost in tears. During the following morning break, the Headmaster called a staff meeting and told them of the Governor’s decision. I went to the P.E. mistress and told her that it was not my proposal to take the P.E. lessons from the timetable and she answered that she knew it wasn’t my idea.
At that time I spoke to Henry Lachs and asked him whether I could regard this decision as final and he answered in the affirmative. I needed to know this so that I could plan ahead for the next year.
The P.E. staff were not idle in this matter. A few days later the P.E. Advisers of the Local Education Authority came to the school and made a report on why not to take P.E. out of the timetable and asked the school to reconsider their decision.
The same day the Staff Association met and discussed the matter. They felt the best solution was to cut out one option line. I should mention that all those who suggested this method were professional teachers. Only the Governors, none of whom were teachers, disagreed! For the following year, they proposed that rather than cut out P.E., certain option lines should lose one period.
A few days later, the Governors decided to reverse their decision, namely P.E. inside the timetable - Jewish subjects outside!
In a letter from Henry Lachs to the Chairman of the Staff Association, he wrote that a working party would be set up the next year comprising the Headmaster, a selection of Governors and Heads of departments to “try to hammer out a solution.”
I believe that I first heard of the reversal and the promise to set up a working party from the Headmaster. I was quite shocked and I said to him that the previous year there had also been the promise of a working party but the Governors had reneged on it. The Headmaster promised me that that would not happen again. I asked him to show good faith and bring one Assembly period into the timetable now. He refused.
This working party did meet - just once! And that was it. Jewish subjects remained in the Assembly periods exactly as they were before!
One of the non-Jewish staff then commented, “The Governors want to have their cake and also eat it.”
Amongst the three governors appointed by the Local Education Authority, one was a non-Jew. At the time, about a third of the pupils in the School were non-Jewish and it was perfectly acceptable to have such an appointment. In fact, I know that at that time, the JFS which was completely Jewish had at least one non-Jewish Governor.
However I fully expected that a non-Jewish Governor in a Jewish School would not participate in discussions concerning how much Jewish Religious instruction there should be in such a school. How wrong I was in this case! At one of the meetings where I was present to discuss this question of integrating these Assembly periods into the timetable, this Governor turned up and spoke against such integration. I must say that I was horrified.
The RAC could not remain silent about this non-integration of Jewish Studies periods and at a meeting held in September 1976, they passed the following resolution; “The RAC regretted that although a number of written undertakings have been given regarding the integration of fourth and fifth year assembly periods into the timetable, the matter seems to have been ‘forgotten’. They would like to hear what steps are currently being taken to implement them.”
In reply to this resolution, the Chairman of the Governors wrote to Rev. Malits, the Convener of the RAC: “It has been made crystal clear by the Governors (who have devoted more time to this matter than any other in the past two years) that they have arrived at a firm and unanimous decision that there will not be any reduction in the hours of secular studies in the 4th and 5th year.... The matter has not been ‘forgotten’ but I do want to make it clear that the present Board of Governors are not proposing to spend further time in discussing what they have found an insoluble problem.”
Needless to say, the RAC were not pleased with this answer and the minutes of their next meeting read:
Can written undertakings be dismissed like a whiff of smoke?
In this letter [of the Chairman of the Governors], this matter is referred to as an ‘insoluble problem’. It is significant to note that the secular staff, who between them have considerable and varied professional experience, consider that a ten-subject course (plus P.E.) which our pupils study is too demanding for almost all our pupils. Not only do less than a handful gain all ten subjects, but many do not complete the course and from January in the fifth year are left only with a truncated course. The suggestion by the secular staff to ask the LEA advisory staff who are specialists in curriculum planning to give their assistance was not only ignored, but was treated with the comment that we do not need their assistance - we can make our own decisions! Reducing the number of subjects by just one to make nine subjects (plus P.E.) would be both educationally sound and would solve this so-called ‘insoluble problem’. In which other school do pupils study ten examination subjects?
As long as I was in the school, nothing further happened in this matter. Whether the problem continued after I left, I don’t know.
Looking back at this problem, I ask myself, why I did not succeed in this matter. Perhaps my Jewish Studies staff, myself included, were too naive in believing that the Governors would accept the secular staff’s opinion and cut out one secular subject.
At the end of 1971, the Governors and Headmaster had caved in to the demands of the secular staff since they were sure that the Teachers’ Unions would support the staff to work a five-and- a-half hour day. Ironically, the Jewish Studies Staff were perpetuating the problem by agreeing to work a six hour day. The Jewish Studies staff were also members of the Unions, such as the NUT or NAS and had we made it known that we intended taking the matter to these Unions, it is very possible that the Governors would have acted differently. But this is history, and we cannot go back in time.
I should stress in this context that had we been successful, we had intended using this time not to get out of bed half an hour later but to do such activities, on a voluntary basis, as daily services for all the Jewish pupils, extra voluntary Shiurim, etc.
I can conclude this chapter with a saying of, I believe, Rabbi Israel Salanter, Founder of the Mussar Movement that the important thing is the effort and not the results. I certainly made a very great effort with this matter.