Jewish primary free school headteacher: ‘No Ofsted bias against us’

Miss Sarah Campbell, Rimon Jewish primary school acting headteacher. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Miss Sarah Campbell, Rimon Jewish primary school acting headteacher. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Sarah Campbell may only be 31, but already she has taken on her first headship and led a popular Jewish free primary school through its first Ofsted inspection.

But the acting headteacher has announced that after more than a year at the helm of Rimon Primary School in Golders Green, she will be stepping down from the role at the end of this term.

Miss Campbell said she will look back on her first ever headship as both a “daunting challenge” and “amazing opportunity” after leading the three-year-old school to achieve a “good” rating following its Ofsted inspection last year.

She said: “It can be good to hit the ground running when you least expect it. It was an amazing challenge, and there’s something lovely about seeing the school grow and creating something from essentially nothing.”

Her replacement from September will be Sara Keen, who has led Jewish Beit Shvidler Primary School in Edgware since the school opened in 2006.

Rimon was founded in 2012 in response to a shortage of primary school places in Golders Green. Last year, it received 100 applications for 28 reception places.

Miss Campbell, who is non-Jewish, has only been in teaching since 2007 but climbed rapidly through the ranks.

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She began her career at the all-girls The Royal School in Hampstead but left for a job at Newton Prep in Battersea when the school closed in 2011 to merge with North Bridge House School, also in Hampstead.

She then returned to Hampstead to teach at Heathside Preparatory School in Heath Street before arriving at Rimon in 2013 as a Year 1 teacher. Just three months after she took up the post of acting head in January last year, Ofsted came knocking.

But she did not experience anything of the watchdog’s alleged harsh treatment of Jewish schools, which the National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools (Najos) claims is an endemic issue at Ofsted.

“They were very positive, there was no feeling of that at all,” Miss Campbell said. “We got ‘good’ which we are really happy with, but we are aiming for ‘outstanding’.”

During her tenure, she has tried to instil in children a love of Jewish studies, while ensuring they receive a well-rounded secular education.

Earlier this month, another Golders Green Jewish school, Talmud Torah Tiferes Shlomoh, was heavily criticised by Ofsted for focusing too much on its religious education.

How does Rimon avoid the same problem?

Miss Campbell, of Apsley in Hertfordshire, answered: “We want a really outstanding secular curriculum and a really outstanding Jewish studies curriculum. But we won’t integrate for the sake of integrating.”