Note: This page is for informational purposes only. For the latest details about the project and next steps please read the full Cabinet report.
Hackney Council is considering proposals on closing or merging six primary schools, as a direct result of the significant decrease in pupil numbers which has caused some schools to face serious financial and sustainability pressures. No changes would be made until September 2024 at the earliest.
- 58: number of primary schools in the borough
- 2,900: overall number of reception places in Hackney in 2022-23, the equivalent of 97 classes
- 634: number of vacant reception places in 2022-23, the equivalent of 21 classes
- 589: ‘missing’ number of reception-aged children compared to 2014 - the equivalent of 20 lost classes
- 5%: healthy reception vacancy rate
- More than 20%: current overall reception vacancy rate
- £6,484: the amount each primary school in Hackney loses per pupil vacancy in 2022-23
- £4.11m: funding missing in 2022-23 from school budgets in Hackney as a result of vacant reception places
- More than £30m: the 2022-23 overall loss in funding for the 58 primary schools in Hackney across all year groups, compared to what they would be entitled to if running with all classrooms full
State-maintained schools lose money for each empty school place, every single year.
It means less money for staff; less money for resources and equipment; less money to pay bills and to carry out maintenance work; and less money for extracurricular activities.
This income loss means it is no longer practical for some schools to function as effectively as possible in response to the needs of their children, and means that in time the education and offer to their pupils and staff will suffer as a result. It is our duty, as a Council, to ensure all pupils receive the very best education, and that all schools in Hackney remain strong and stable.
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 potential changes are in no way a reflection on the work of the schools’ staff and leadership, or on the quality of teaching.
Schools that may close in September 2024 are:
- De Beauvoir Primary School
- Randal Cremer Primary School
A merger (also known as amalgamation) brings together two or more schools to form one school - on one site and under a single leadership.
Four schools in the borough are currently considered to potentially merge into two schools on one of the existing sites.
The schools that may merge in September 2024 are:
- Colvestone Primary School and Princess May Primary School, onto the Princess May site. This means that if the decision is to proceed Colvestone would close in August 2024, and all pupils will be offered the option of moving to Princess May starting September 2024
- Baden Powell Primary School and Nightingale Primary School, onto the Nightingale site. This means that if the decision is to proceed Baden Powell would close in August 2024, and all pupils will be offered the option of moving to Nightingale starting September 2024
Factors considered by the Council when considering possible alternatives and solutions included:
- Schools most financially at-risk
- Number of vacant places
- Physical size of schools and suitability of sites to host a merger
- Geographic partnership options (such as the existence of other schools within walking distance)
- Whether new neighbourhoods and new-build estates will create significantly more need for school places in the future
- Current Ofsted grading and projected outcomes of pupils
- Community impact
Merging schools that have seen large decreases in pupil numbers brings significant benefits, including:
- Increased specialist expertise from a wider teaching team
- Stronger finances
- Increased resources
- Increased potential for school improvement
Why is this happening?
These closure and merger plans are a very last resort. However, they are a direct result of the significant decrease in the number of local reception-aged children.
It follows a year-on-year decrease in numbers, a trend being seen in the majority of London boroughs. Factors that account for this decrease include falling birth rates, families relocating outside London (as a result of the pandemic and other factors including housing costs, the return to Europe of families as a result of Brexit). The Greater London Authority (GLA)’s projections available for Hackney indicate the surplus reception places will rise up to 23% in 2025-26, and then slowly decrease and stagnate at 20% until 2031-32.
In autumn 2014, there were only 10 unfilled reception places out of the 2,865 available in Hackney (0.35%). By autumn 2022, this number rose to 634 unfilled reception places out of the 2,900 available in Hackney (21.86%).
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%) in 2022.
In 2022-23, maintained Hackney primary schools lost on average £6,484 for every surplus place. That means that in 2022-23 there was around £650,000 lost funding just from the six schools’ 101 unfilled reception places.
Significantly smaller class sizes might sound like good news, but the opposite is true, because this reduces the amount of money the school receives from central government.
This is because many costs are driven by the number of classes in a school, whereas funding levels are driven by the number of pupils.
Schools receive funding from the government based on the number of pupils they have.
Now some schools are facing a significant income loss. This means they have less money to:
- Pay salaries
- Provide the good quality of education that we expect for our children
- Provide extracurricular activities
- Access the most modern equipment and resources
It also means that some schools, especially small schools on larger sites, can no longer afford to continue to pay for maintenance, and escalating heating and lighting costs.
More than 90 percent of the borough’s schools are Ofsted-rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ and are considered some of the best in the country. We are proud of our children and young children, who are among the first in the country for reading, writing and maths.
If no action is taken it is inevitable that quality of education and outcomes for Hackney children are at risk and the Council will be liable for the costs of schools worst affected by falling rolls as they move into debt or increase their deficit and eventually close for financial reasons. The Council has a legal duty to ensure that schools provide high quality places for the children. We need to ensure all our schools continue to provide excellent education for our children, with the very best resources and facilities.
The Council, simply, can’t do nothing. In 2022-23 alone, primary schools in Hackney were set to lose more than £30m in funding compared to what they would have been entitled to if they were running with all classrooms full.
More than two thirds of Hackney’s maintained primary schools have budgeted for an in-year over spend at the end of the 2023-24 financial year. This trend is expected to continue as roll numbers continue to fall.
That’s why we now take the difficult decision to consider closing two primary schools and merging (joining two or more schools to form one school - on one site and under a single leadership) some primary schools into another school nearby.
We know schools have very close ties to their local area and communities, that’s why closing schools is one of the most difficult decisions we can make, and not one we would ever choose to do unless we had no other choice. But the quality of education for our children, and strength of the whole school system in Hackney, must take priority.
What has the Council been doing to try to help these schools?
To best respond to the challenges that a changing pupil population brings, Hackney Education has put in place an Education Sufficiency and Estate Strategy, which sets the 2021-2031 priorities for the Council. Finding long term solutions to manage the falling rolls, together with the primary schools affected the most, is an important part of this strategy.
School leaders and the Council have been doing everything they can to manage the situation, including by combining different year groups in some schools, formally reducing and capping reception places, reorganising their staffing to make savings and supporting schools with their financial management. But this hasn’t solved the problem.
The Council - alongside other London councils - asked the government for help by giving schools additional one-off funding to manage their falling rolls while numbers stabilise; and we also asked for greater powers to manage school places in free schools and academies, which are independent of the Council, in order to pool pupil place-planning resource.
Government updates on the amount of funding per pupil nationally have simply not been enough to sustain schools with large vacancy rates, especially now with the rising costs of energy and materials putting even more pressure on budgets.
Since the beginning of the year, the Council has been working closely with the six schools included in the proposals and will continue to do so, offering them additional support to manage the process.
What are you doing to support children and parents/carers?
The Council has offered the affected schools information to provide to parents and carers from the beginning of the process in March 2023, and schools and Council staff held a series of meetings during the previous school year to talk to parents/carers directly about the plans.
All parents have been informed directly about the proposed changes via information packs distributed in March 2023:
- De Beauvoir Primary School information pack
- Randal Cremer Primary School information pack
- Colvestone Primary School information pack
- Princess May Primary School information pack
- Baden Powell Primary School information pack
- Nightingale Primary School information pack
All the information about the project has been published online, and the project’s page has been updated at key moments in the calendar, including by adding a list of FAQs and a leaflet for wider audiences, as well as links to other relevant pages.
There have been multiple events organised in each of the schools in scope where participants were able to ask questions, following a format agreed in advance with the leaders of the schools.
Headteachers of the schools in scope have been provided with regular updates and information from the Council to share with parents / carers and members of staff.
No final decision to close or merge schools is to be made by the Cabinet before December 2023. If the Cabinet decides to progress proposals to this stage, more practical information and direct support to those affected by the proposals would be available.
A school closure will be a difficult and upsetting decision and process for many. That’s why we are doing everything possible to limit periods of anxiety and uncertainty for children, families, staff and communities. If the Cabinet will decide to proceed with the proposals, we will help families plan for and identify an alternative school for their children and support staff to seek redeployment opportunities. We will also provide support for the education, choices and wellbeing of children and staff in the schools affected.
There are numerous good or outstanding primary schools with vacancies within walking distance of the schools that may close. Should the closures go ahead, the Council will work closely to support families to make a planned transition to a new school for the start of the new academic year in September 2024. Families may also seek to secure a place at an alternative school via the ‘in-year’ admissions process if they wish.
If a child has an Education, Health and Care Plan, their SEND key worker will work with the family directly to consult and determine another school that can meet their needs. Children with SEND but without a plan will be supported to ensure special transition arrangements are in place to help the move go smoothly.
In the case of a merger, all children will be transferred to the merged school if that is what the families want. This means they will remain with their friends. The Council will support families who do not want their children to attend the merged school to explore other options. We want to carry out changes in a way that minimises disruption and distress to children and families, communities and staff.
Transition plans would be developed by the executive headteacher and the headteachers of both schools, considering issues raised during the consultation and asking parents what they would like to happen, as well as learning from what has been effective for other schools that have gone through this process.
What will happen next?
If the decision is to proceed to the next step, the Council will publish Statutory Notices and people will have a 28-days period to send their views about the proposals. A final decision whether to close / merge the schools or not will be made in December 2023.
No closure or merger would take place before September 2024.
NOTE: this timeline may be subject to changes
|January - May 2023||The Council talks to school leaders and governors to discuss plans and decide on next steps|
|April 2023||Public meetings are held with the school communities|
Cabinet decision 1
|The Council’s Cabinet makes a decision on whether to consult on the proposals|
|June 2023||Consultation (subject to Cabinet decision) begins with parents, staff and governors, and those living and working in the area|
Cabinet decision 2
|Feedback from the previous consultation considered by the Cabinet who will decide whether to publish statutory proposals|
|October - November 2023||The Council publishes statutory notices of their intention to close/merge the schools. This triggers a 28-day representation period during which any person may object to or make comments on the proposals|
Cabinet decision 3
|Response during the statutory objection period is considered by the Cabinet, who makes the final decision to proceed or not with mergers and/or closures|
|January-August 2024||School merger and closure arrangements are made (subject to Cabinet’s decision in December 2023). Schools in scope officially close. Community engagement begins to explore future use of vacated school sites|
|September 2024||Children begin at alternative schools (subject to Cabinet’s decision in December 2023)|