Support offered to families, children and staff of the four closing primary schools in Hackney

Pupils, families and staff affected by the upcoming closures of four primary schools in Hackney are able to access targeted support to help them during the transition. 

This is part of the Council’s work to minimise the negative impact of the decision to close De Beauvoir, Randal Cremer, Colvestone and Baden Powell Primary School at the end of this school year, as a result of the significant decrease in their pupil numbers

Since the beginning of the year, officers and school leaders have been working together to manage the transition and find the right solutions for families and staff impacted by the decision. 

Families and pupils support

As part of the packages prepared in collaboration with schools, families and pupils are offered access to a range of support measures and activities, including:

  • Workshops and drop-ins (such as one-to-one admissions workshops that are currently underway);
  • School visits and tours;
  • Legacy and introductory events;
  • Financial support with the cost of purchasing new uniforms for the families of children that will move to a new school;
  • Signposting of support services such as family coaches or child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). 

Families with children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will be able to access dedicated specialist support through their school as part of the transition process, including additional educational psychology, specialist teacher and speech and language therapy support. This support is designed to help receiving schools prepare a tailored, graduated response to inclusion, responding to the needs of the most vulnerable pupils.

A number of families have already decided to transfer their children to other schools that meet their needs; admission officers have been in touch with the remaining families to help them find and apply for places. In addition, as set out in the initial proposals, all parents with children at Colvestone Primary School have a guaranteed place at Princess May; those currently on roll at Baden Powell have a guaranteed place at Nightingale Primary School if they so choose.

The Council is working together with the headteachers of receiving schools to ensure they have all the detailed information they need to welcome families and children in their new environment. 

Staff support

Staff have been offered access to a series of tailored resources, selected based on their feedback to meet their needs for employment skills and training. 

The support offer for staff includes:

  • Tailored e-learning modules;
  • One-to-one careers counselling;
  • One-to-one support and workshops for CV writing, interview skills, pensions, benefits impact;
  • Extended Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) support: 24/7 support across all life and work issues, exclusive access to health and wellbeing guides, webinars and other services;
  • Help searching for alternative roles within the London Borough of Hackney / redeployment opportunities;
  • Wellbeing support for school leaders (through individual and group reflective practice).

Support for schools

In addition to the tailored support offered for pupils, families and staff, schools have been offered direct financial and logistical support to help manage the transition. 

This includes additional funding for children with SEND transitioning to new schools, and financial support for schools that accept a large number of children from the closing schools to help with a smooth transition where there is a gap in funding.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor, Cabinet Member for Education, Young People and Children’s Social Care

Our decision to close four of the beloved primary schools in Hackney was incredibly difficult, and one that we wished we didn’t have to make. But we believe this was the right decision in the face of the stark reality of falling rolls caused by the lower birth rates, families moving out of London as a result of the cost of living crisis, Brexit and the pandemic, and competition from free schools.

The problem of falling rolls affects not just Hackney, but all of London, with a massive impact on schools finances and their ability to continue to offer a quality education for all children. Mounting pressures on local authorities’ budgets mean that we can not continue to compensate for the chronic lack of government funding to support  education through these massive challenges. 

We will continue to collaborate with all our partners and schools to manage the reduction in the number of school-aged children in Hackney, and to ask the central government for support to enable the high quality education they deserve.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor, Cabinet Member for Education, Young People and Children’s Social Care

Managing the falling rolls in Hackney

In recent years, there has been a year-on-year decrease in primary aged pupils - a trend that is being seen in the majority of London boroughs and that significantly affects the demand for school places in Hackney. 

There are simply not enough children in the borough and neighbouring areas seeking places at Hackney primary schools, and this is forecast to remain a problem over the following years. Despite Hackney building new homes, the expected number of additional school-aged children is not forecast to have any significant impact. 

Hackney schools currently have over 600 empty places in reception classes alone, a 21% surplus. A healthy surplus is between 5 and 10%. The October 2023 census shows even fewer children joining reception in Hackney compared to the Greater London Authority’s earlier forecast, with three additional reception classes remaining unfilled this year (92 children). 

Because schools are funded based on the number of pupils, the plummeting rolls have had a huge impact on schools budgets needed to pay staff, maintain and repair their buildings, buy all the modern equipment and resources that the schools need, or organise activities for children. In 2022-2023 alone, the 58 primary schools in Hackney were missing more than £30m in funding compared to if classrooms were full. 

Financial reserves across Hackney’s maintained primary schools, or the federations they form part of, are reducing at an alarming and unsustainable rate, with the combined surplus forecast to drop by £6.48m or 70% by  the close of 2023/24 financial year. This is while over two thirds of Hackney’s maintained schools, or the federations they form part of, are predicting they will over-spend during the 2023/24 financial year to meet the needs of the children on roll.

To ensure the local response to falling rolls is well informed and takes into account the needs of our communities, school representatives from across Hackney have been invited to join the Falling Rolls Advisory Group (FRAG). The group will work in partnership with Hackney officers to review and monitor the demand for school places across the borough, to provide valuable insights from a school perspective, and to inform and support future approaches and plans, in line with the council’s Education Sufficiency and School Estates Strategy.