Cabinet to decide next week on the proposals to close or merge schools in Hackney
On 11 December, Hackney Cabinet will meet to decide on the proposals to close or merge schools in Hackney as a result of the significant decrease in their pupil numbers.
The report that will inform the decision was published online last week. The report recommends that the Cabinet agrees to a number of changes to affect six primary schools in the borough from September 2024:
- closure of De Beauvoir Primary School;
- closure of Randal Cremer Primary School;
- closure of Colvestone Primary School, guaranteeing all children a place at Princess May Primary School if the families want it;
- closure of Baden Powell Primary School, guaranteeing all children a place at Nightingale Primary School if the families want it;
- increasing the published admission number at Nightingale Primary School by adding an additional form of entry to all year groups.
The proposals, first announced in March this year, are in response to an ongoing decline in the number of school-aged children in Hackney. This reduction means 21% of reception places were unfilled in 2022-2023. Because schools are financed based on the number of pupils they have, the significant decline in pupil numbers has caused some of them to face serious financial and sustainability pressures. In 2022-2023 alone, the 58 primary schools in Hackney were missing more than £30m in funding compared to if classrooms were full.
In September 2023, following an informal consultation that took place in the summer of 2023, Hackney Cabinet decided to publish statutory notices of its intention to close/merge the schools. The proposals were published on 6 October 2023, which marked the beginning of a 28-day representation period of statutory consultation during which any person could object to or make comments on the proposals.
At the end of the consultation period, 175 responses were submitted online, by email and letter: 164 responses received online via the Council’s online survey platform, Citizen Space; 10 emails and 1 letter. The feedback received during the statutory notice period has been analysed and reviewed by an independent third party, Kwest, and the report included in an Appendix to the Cabinet report. According to the report, 95% of the responses that could be clearly assessed were against the proposals, and 5% supporting them.
The Cabinet report advises that, despite the vast majority of the statutory notice comments being against the proposals, the Council should still proceed with the proposed changes, as the objective reasons behind the proposals have not changed, and the decreased demand for primary places across the borough is projected to continue for years to come, impacting more and more the financial viability, sustainability and quality of the Hackney education system as a whole.
If the Cabinet decides to proceed with the proposals, families and staff will receive the support they need to help them understand their options and prepare for transition. There will be one-to-one support for families to ensure their children have places at suitable schools, including extra priority for places at nearby schools.
We know schools are more than just places for children to receive education, and that they play an important part in their local community. This is why having to consider potentially closing or merging schools is very difficult, and not something we would have ever proposed if we felt that there was any other option available for keeping all schools open.
I would like to thank everyone who has worked with us during this process, as well as those who attended meetings to ask questions, submitted responses to the consultation, and advocated on behalf of their schools, their children and their wider communities. We know this has been a difficult and at times emotional process, and we are committed to continuing to engage with all communities and stakeholders to deliver on our ambitious vision for Hackney’s schools.
No one goes into public life, or a leadership position, to close or merge schools, but it is our responsibility as a local authority to make the difficult decisions that enable us to continue to offer access to first-class education for every single child, allowing them to fulfil their potential and achieve their ambitions.