Hackney Council is informally consulting on proposals to close / merge six schools
Hackney Council is informally consulting on closing or merging six primary schools, as a direct result of the significant decrease in pupil numbers that has been affecting the borough in recent years.
The consultation is open to all those potentially affected by the proposals until 16 July.
Since 2014, the number of primary school children has decreased in the majority of London boroughs, as a result of a combination of factors, which include lower birth rates, the cap on rent benefits, competition from free schools, and families leaving London as a result of the pandemic, higher housing costs or Brexit. This trend is expected to continue until at least 2028.
Hackney has been affected significantly by this trend. This school year, there were almost 600 fewer children starting reception in the borough compared to 2014, the equivalent of 20 classes.
A healthy percentage of empty school places is usually around 5%. In 2022, almost 22% of the 2,900 reception places available in Hackney were unfilled.
As schools are funded based on the number of pupils on roll, that means that some of them have been confronted with serious income loss. Less money means less funding available for schools to pay for staff, for modern resources and equipment, for extra curricular activities, for maintenance and repairs. In the long run, this will affect the quality of education of the children in the affected schools.
This school year alone, the 58 primary schools in Hackney are receiving £30m less in funding compared to what they would be entitled to if running with their classrooms full.
The Council has been doing everything possible to help local schools to manage the risk of the falling rolls, including restructuring, reducing non-essential costs, combining different year groups in some schools, and reducing the number of reception places in some schools. But these measures haven't been able to solve the problem long-term.
There are 58 primary schools in the borough, and the Council is now considering the potential to consult on closing two schools and carrying out two mergers of two schools each.
The six schools that the Council is currently looking at saw their total number of unfilled reception places go from 6 out of 270 in 2014 (2.22%) to 101 out of 225 (44.88%).
Any closure or merger would not take place before September 2024.
We are so proud of the amazing work of our staff, pupils and their families, and their exceptional results. Almost 95% of the Hackney primary schools are rated good or outstanding - an achievement that was far from reality 20 years ago.
None of what is happening is the fault of our schools, and we know how important they are to their local communities - this is why the decision to start consulting on closing or merging some of them is so much harder. However, we have a duty to ensure that our education system remains strong, and that our children receive the quality education they deserve.
The problem of the falling rolls is not just a Hackney issue. We will continue to lobby the central government and ask for help in finding a long term solution for all London boroughs, so that our schools remain sustainable and our pupils can continue to thrive.