According to the 1944 Education Act, schools are administered by a body known as Managers in a Primary School and Governors in a High School. In the case of a voluntary aided school, two-thirds of the number (“foundation” governors) are appointed privately (“by the providing body”) and one third (“representative” governors) by the local education authority.
It is the norm that in a denominational school, amongst the governors or managers should be at least one Minister of that particular religion. Often he is the Chairman. At the time I was in the King David, the Chief Rabbi was a Governor of JFS and Rabbi Dr. Schonfeld and Rabbi Cohn were Governors of the Hasmonean Boys.
One might now ask what the situation was in this matter at the King David Schools in Liverpool. If one looks at the long history of the schools one can see that from its inception in the 1840s until 1943, there was always at least one Jewish Minister on the Governing body. For those interested in Liverpool’s Jewish history, here is the complete list: Rev. David Isaacs 1843-63, Rev. Michael Oppenheim 1843-?, Rev. A Fischel 1852-56, Rev. Herman Baar 1860-67, Rev. Myer Elkin 1867-72, Rev. Jacob Prag 1868-?, Rev. D.W. Stern 1873-85, Rev. Morris Joseph 1874-82, Rev. Joseph Polack 1881-90, Rev. Harris Burman 1883-1914, Rev. Abraham Rutkovsky 1886-1910, Rev. Samuel Friedeberg (Frampton) 1891-1943 (also President 1922-43).
For some reason, which I was unable to ascertain, after Rev. Frampton, no further Jewish Minister was appointed. But that is no reason to continue without Ministerial representation on the Governing Board.
Towards the end of 1976, the Religious Advisory Committee and the Merseyside Association of Jewish Ministers began to take up this question.
At that period, both the Governors and Managers had nine members. Three were elected by the Local Education Authority. The other six were elected by the Subscribers to the King David Foundation at its Annual General Meeting. The election was for three years. Every year there was an election - one year for Governors, another year for Managers and yet another year for the Foundation members. To become a Subscriber, one only had to give the sum of two pounds and ten pence, for that year. One then had the right to attend this Annual General Meeting and vote for managers, governors or members of the Foundation. Both my wife and myself became subscribers and attended the Annual Meetings to vote. If our votes could help in getting religious governors and managers, then why not use them.
When I was first at the school, the numbers attending the meetings were not large and if one was prepared to canvass friends, it was not too difficult to be elected. As the years went by however, more Subscribers started to attend the meetings and to be elected required far more work.
There was no barrier to who could be a Subscriber. It would be quite possible for a group of a few hundred anti-Israel Jews or even non-Jews to become Subscribers, attend the annual meeting, elect their own group as governors and, hey-presto, anything to do with Israel would be taken off the curricula! Fortunately, it didn’t reach that stage.
On one occasion however, a few years before I left, there was a grass roots movement to try and stop the election of Governors who were religious. They questioned the candidates to find out their views on religious matters which might come up for the Governors’ decision. They didn’t question Henry Lachs since they knew his religious views, and I think they wanted to get him off the Governing body, but they were not successful.
In addition to the nine managers and governors there was a person with observer status on the governing bodies who was elected by the Parents’ Associations.
In their meeting in September 1976, “the RAC strongly recommended that there should be a reintroduction of a Minister of Religion to serve on the Board of Governors and Managers of the Schools.”
In reply to this request, the Chairman of the Governors wrote:
If the RAC wants a change in the Constitution of Governors and Managers that would have to be done by a change in the constitution of the Foundation which provides that Governors and Managers are to be elected by members of the Foundation. If the RAC is thinking in terms of a representative of the RAC being present at Governors and Managers meetings I can only say for the Governors that the RAC requested this sometime ago and I then replied to you that as far as Governors are concerned (I cannot speak for Managers) the Governors did not approve such a course. Many of the matters it considers (indeed most) have no connection with the religious life of the School, often they discuss confidential matters concerning staff and pupils, and they think it important that such matters should be confined to those duly elected to deal with such matters.
We are however very conscious that there are important aspects of School life on which the RAC has views which it wishes to voice and which the Governors will wish to hear. What I should like to ensure is that there is communication and we propose periodically to invite a representative of the RAC to attend a Governors’ meeting and I suggest as a start that a representative of the RAC, come to the next Governors’ meeting on December 2nd... and we will allot the first part of the meeting to a discussion of such matters as you may wish to raise.
This letter was discussed at the next meeting of the RAC which took place a few weeks later and these comments were answered as follows:
No comment has been made to explain the fact why we should be different from other denominational schools where the standard practice is to have at least one Minister of Religion serving on the Governing body, and also why it was perfectly acceptable to have at least one Minister of Religion on the governing body during a century of the life of the school.
At the last Annual General meeting of the Foundation, the President Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, stated that Jewish Studies are the purpose of our school and without them we should not exist as a Foundation, and the Chairman, Mr. ---- stated that the main object of the school is that there should be Jewish education in he city. The Headmaster of the High School told the Liverpool Jewish Gazette that to maintain a Jewish atmosphere is an over-riding principle. It therefore follows that it is essential that a Minister of Religion should serve in the governing body, even if most of the items have no direct connection with the religious life of the school, since a Jewish atmosphere is the whole ethos and purpose of the school and a Minister would be able to make a valuable contribution. To deliberately exclude a Minister negates the whole purpose of the school.
We trust that the intention of the statement about ‘confidential matters concerning staff and pupils’ was not to suggest that Ministers cannot be relied upon to maintain the confidentiality of such matters no less than the other people present. By virtue of their work, Ministers constantly receive confidential information regarding their congregants. Another reason stated in this letter for the exclusion of Ministers from meetings of the governing body is that ‘such matters should be confined to those duly elected to deal with such matters’. However, it is a fact that a representative of the Parents is present at every Governors’ and Managers’ meeting and throughout the entire meeting. We should like to hear how this accords with the above statement. A representative of the Ministers has no less right to be present than a representative of the parents.
With regards to the Governors’ meeting on December 2nd, Rev. Abenson will be present.
I expressed my opposition to a Minister just going to a meeting where he could only stay for the first part. I considered it degrading to go in, say his piece, and then be dismissed with a, “Thank you Rabbi, we will discuss what you said, good bye.”
With regard to observing confidentially, one of the sons of a Governor told me that he reads all the Governors’ confidential material which comes to the house. So much for the observance of the Governors’ confidentiality!
The RAC then passed on the matter to the Merseyside Association of Jewish Ministers. This is a slightly wider forum than the Religious Advisory Committee and they passed a resolution, “It is essential that a member of the Merseyside Association of Jewish Ministers elected by them to serve on the governing bodies of both the King David Primary and the King David High Schools.” This resolution was submitted to the Chairman of the King David Foundation, with copies to the Chairman of the Governors and Chairman of the Managers.
A month later an answer was received from the Foundation:
I am to advise you that the Managers and Governors, at this moment, do not feel able to grant your request for representation.
The Articles of Management and Government set out the method of election, and it does not enable us to modify our arrangements, which are an election by ballot at the Annual General Meeting.
Having come to a “dead end” with this approach, I decided on a different method. Let the general staff ask for observer status on the governing body. I thought, perhaps naively, that if we could get observer status for teachers, it would give us more bargaining power for the Ministers. I should also mention that in addition I was keen that teachers should have representation on the governing body. I searched the various regulations and found one (after all this time I don’t remember where) which would enable them to have observer status and brought the matter up in a meeting of the general Staff Association. The staff were keen on the idea and after a few letters to and fro with the Governors, agreement was given. A staff representative was elected and he went to Governors’ meetings and then reported back to the staff.
Following the staff being granted observer status, the secretary of the Merseyside Association of Jewish Ministers wrote to the Foundation in October 1977:
... For some time, the parents have had a representative to these boards [of Governors and Managers] and now the staff have been granted a representative. We consider that in a denominational school, the Ministers of Religion have no less right than the parents and the staff to be represented.
We, therefore formally request to be granted the same status as the parents and the staff at these meetings.
In their reply sent a couple of months later, the Foundation again refused:
It is felt that the Association of Ministers is fully represented on our Jewish Studies Committee and by your participation on the Religious Advisory Committee.
It is pointed out that the presence of an observer from the Staff Association and Parents’ and Parent Teacher Associations is in line with the Liverpool Education Committee practice.
Election as a Manager or Governor is open to any contributor and we should be delighted to welcome any individual minister of religion who may be so elected.
I pointed out to the Ministers when we received this letter, that were a Minister to be elected by the subscribers to the King David Foundation, he would be a representative of the subscribers and not of the Ministers.
When the Chief Rabbi came to Liverpool and spoke to the Ministers, I brought this question up and he said of course there must be Ministerial representation on the governing bodies.
At about this period, a small change was made in the wording of one of the Constitutions or Articles. Before this change it would have been possible for one of the six privately elected governors to be a representative of the Ministers. After the change was passed, this was impossible. Whether this change was instituted to prevent this eventuality or for some other reason entirely, I really don’t know.
I know the governing bodies would do their best to avoid Rabbis being present at their meetings. There was an election for the Parent Observer for the governing body of the Primary School. As a parent of a pupil at the school, I was nominated as a candidate. The Parent Observer at the High School governor’s meetings even made a comment to me to the effect of how dare I put forward my candidature! During the meeting where the election took place, a whole collection of parents, including the Managers who were parents, came in specially to vote - and it wasn’t for me! I still got about a third of the votes.
I heard that the Government had set up a Committee to look into the governing of schools and that the NUHT had been asked to submit a memorandum. I therefore contacted their President, Rabbi Bernstein, to include in their memorandum that there should be a member of the clergy on the governing bodies of Religious Schools. He did as I requested and I asked him to send me a copy of the memorandum. However he told me it was too confidential to send me but when I was in London, he would let me read it. When I did go to his house and read the memorandum, I saw why he didn’t want to send it. A large part of the NUHT memorandum was directed against the Chairman of Governors of a Jewish School, where it was claimed he acted like a dictator.
I learned afterwards that any individual or body could have submitted information to this Committee. Had I known, I would certainly have submitted a memorandum of my own.
In 1977 this Committee under the Chairmanship of Councillor T. Taylor submitted its Report entitled “A New Partnership for Our Schools.” It included proposals for the composition of governing bodies in schools. Membership of these bodies was to be divided between the local education authorities, the school staff, parents and the wider community.
When the report was published summaries were given in the newspapers and the electronic media. One of these summaries gave for “the wider community” a number of examples and these included “the church.” I wanted to see whether the actual report used the words “the church” and if so we would be able to use it in our arguments with the Foundation. I went to the local library but they did not have this report. I finally bought a copy myself and read it carefully. I found that it did not specifically mention the church.
Insofar as voluntary aided schools, such as the King David School, were concerned, the Committee proposed that their recommendations for county schools should as far as possible be implemented in these voluntary schools so long as they did not affect their particular voluntary nature. To do this the Report continues: “The Secretaries of State should put in hand as soon as possible consultation ... with a view to the adoption for voluntary schools of arrangements for management and government following as closely as practicable the lines of those we have recommended for county schools.”
After studying this Report, I set myself a mental exercise of working out the composition of the governing body for the King David High School, in accordance with the proposals of the Taylor Report. To the best of my recollection, these are the conclusions I came to:
According to the number of pupils at the school, which was about 500, there should be 15 governors. They would be distributed as follows:
• 3 representatives of the Local Education Authority
• 2 representatives of the Subscribers to the King David Foundation
• The headmaster
• 1 representative of the secular staff
• 1 representative of the Jewish Studies/ Modern Hebrew staff
• 2 Parents
• 2 Alumni - one of whom left the school within the last two years
• 1 representative of the Merseyside Association of Jewish Ministers
• 1 representative of the Zionist Federation Educational Trust
• 1 representative of the Merseyside Jewish Representative Council
Each body would elect its own representatives and the 2 representatives of the Subscribers would be elected on different years.
I don’t know what the composition of the governing body is today, but it would be interesting to make a comparison with my above conclusions.