In September 2012, J-SENSe, the Cross Community Working Group which has been thoroughly researching the need for new support services for young Jewish people in Manchester with special educational needs, met to consider that research and to endorse proposals for imaginative new services to start in September 2013. Delamere Charitable Trust has played a leading role in the creation and organisation of J-SENSe.
There are now believed to be about 6,500 school age pupils in total in Greater Manchester. This follows the rapid growth of the charedi community who continue to move into Salford and, increasingly, Bury. With their typical large families, the charedim now account for over half the Jewish school population. There is a noticeable bulge at nursery and primary school level which will necessitate major growth in Jewish school places as they grow to secondary age. This growth is also leading to increasing numbers of Jewish children who need extra support because they have special educational needs (around 14% of the total number).
Unfortunately, special government funding for educating children with learning disabilities is being tightly controlled, creating problems for the Jewish schools which are trying to cope with the consequences. At the same time the government is proposing changes to the way that help is provided which, whilst well intentioned, are creating great uncertainty while the details are being thought through. Added to this, the many Jewish children in independent schools don’t qualify for government support unless their condition entitles them to a statement. In practice, only around 10% of SEN children ever get statements.
“The consequence of all this”, explains Delamere and J-SENSe Chairman Malcolm Joels, “is that the special help that these children really need to enable them to learn, and develop vital life skills is very often highly limited or indeed unavailable”. J-SENSe is proposing to establish a range of services for Jewish schools to help them support their SEN children more effectively, for example by providing imaginative specialist staff training for teachers and other staff to help them adapt their teaching approaches appropriately to the different learning disabilities which their pupils have.
Mr Joels continued “Children with learning disabilities deserve the same opportunities as other children. In the same way as the recent successes of Paralympic athletes have illustrated, children with disabilities can also register real life achievements if only they get the key extra specialised support tailored to their individual needs during their education.
“We’re going to have to ask Manchester Jewry to put their hands in their pockets to help us do this properly”, said Mr Joels. “With the best will in the world, public funds alone will simply not be enough, no matter how cleverly and cost effectively we design our new services. The Delamere Charitable Trust is launching an appeal for J-SENSe starting on Sunday October 14th with a fundraising concert at the Royal Northern College of Music, starring popular singer songwriter Dean Friedman.”
A new charity, JSENSE, was later registered to operate the new services.