THE Hendon Times newspaper was one of several important artefacts to be buried in the foundations of the UK’s first cross-community Jewish state secondary school by the Secretary of State for Schools on Monday.

Ed Balls joined Barnet councillors, MPs and Jewish leaders in Westbrook Crescent, East Barnet, to celebrate the start of construction work on the £50million, 1,310-place Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS) – the most expensive UK state school ever built.

The time capsule, which can keep its contents safe for up to 100 years, included shrapnel from a Second World War war bomb found on the site, photos of the last year of students at East Barnet Upper School, whose buildings on the site will be demolished when JCoSS is completed, and a picture of Robert Shrager, JCoSS’s first chair of governors, who died earlier this year.

Speaking to around 200 guests, Mr Balls praised the moral vision of JCoSS, which is the first Jewish state secondary school to welcome Jewish students of all backgrounds, beliefs and abilites on an equal basis.

He said: “The Chief Rabbi said that to defend a nation you need an army, but to defend a civilisation you need schools. And in the week when this community is commemorating the Holocaust, and also on a day when we see very difficult scenes in Geneva at the United Nations, this is a time when we have to redouble our efforts to say that discrimination is wrong and we have to stand together to make sure we route out intolerance and prejudice.

“And that is what this school is going to be all about.

“The future of this community, the future of our country, our children, is in the hands of the people who established this school.”

JCoSS President Gerald Ronson said the vision of the school was to equip students with the skills and information they needed to play a full part in the Jewish community and beyond, and to become self-confident ambassadors for Judaism.

He added: “I am excited because of what this building represents. Over the past 50 years the Jewish population in the UK has declined by 150,000. Many Jews have married out or simply lost interest.

“We have to find ways to re-engage these lost and rapidly disappearing generations and re-connect them with their roots.

“JCoSS is crucial to achieving that goal.”

The ceremony also marked the first public appearance of the school’s first headteacher, Jeremy Stowe-Lindner.

Speaking at the ground breaking event, Mr Stowe-Lindner said: “Like Abraham and Sarah, our ancestors, our tent is open on all sides, not just making a statement of inclusivity and tolerance, but living and breathing it through our actions, our curriculum, and through you, our stake-holders.”

A specialist autism facility on the site, run by Jewish children’s charity Norwood and named the Pears Special Resource Provision, will allow 50 children with the condition to learn alongside students at the mainstream school.

Construction is due to be completed in June next year and the first 180 Year 7 students will start in September.