We have answered a number of general questions related to the informal consultation. You can also read questions related to each school.
Note: These FAQs are for informational purposes only. For the latest details about the project and next steps please read the full Cabinet report.
How were the schools proposed for closures or mergers chosen?
None of the proposed changes are at the fault of our schools.
To deal with the problem of falling rolls, the Council developed a list of factors to measure the impact of the falling rolls on schools, which include:
- Schools most financially at-risk
- Number of vacant places (both in reception and across all school years)
- Physical size of schools and suitability of sites to host a merger
- Geographic partnership options (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
In the case of proposed mergers, the checks included verifying the projected school pupil numbers and ensuring all pupils would fit in the proposed merged school.
In the case of potential closures, nearby schools with surplus places were reviewed to ensure alternative options were available.
More information can be found in the Cabinet report published in May 2023.
What has been done so far to help schools manage the decrease in the number of pupils?
Finding long term solutions to manage the falling rolls, together with the primary schools affected the most, is an important part of Hackney’s long term strategy.
The Council has been working together with schools to prevent the problems from becoming unmanageable, with measures taken so far including the restructuring of school staff, limiting extra curricular activities such as school trips, ‘vertical grouping’ by combining different year groups, formally reducing and capping reception places, and establishing deficit recovery plans for some schools. However, these measures have not managed to solve the problem.
The Council has asked the national government to look at how funding is allocated, to support a stronger and fairer school system. We have also repeatedly asked the government for greater powers to manage places in free schools and academies, which are independent of the Council, in order to pool place-planning resources.
The decrease in the number of school aged children is a London wide problem, and long term solutions need to take into account how to counter its impact in all boroughs.
Unused or vacant school places create an immediate cost for schools through reduced budgets, which in turn can affect the overall sustainability and quality of education standards at a school.
As pupil numbers decrease, the majority of schools experience a less than full year group and, therefore, an inability to maximise the use of resources. 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.
Are some of the schools proposed for closing or merging better than schools that would remain open?
Schools’ performance is an important factor that influences parents’ decision on where to send their children, and can help protect those with the best results.
However, this isn’t the case for Hackney, where almost 95% of the primary schools are rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.
All schools included in the current proposals are rated ‘Good’.
Why are the current proposals focused on community schools rather than free schools, academies or faith schools?
There is an urgent need to take action.
Free schools and academies receive funding directly from the government. The Council has no direct control over the opening, closing or running of academies and free schools.
We repeatedly asked the central government for greater powers to manage school places in free schools and academies, which are independent of the Council.
While the council is not the decision maker for reductions in the number of pupils per year (Published Admission Numbers, or PAN) at faith schools, the relevant dioceses have taken steps to reduce their combined numbers to reflect changes in Hackney’s population.
Each Roman Catholic primary school has moved to one form of entry, reducing their total number of pupils by 60. The Church of England primary schools have also reduced their current overall places by 45.
The Council will continue to work with diocesian representatives on falling rolls in faith based schools.
What will be done to ensure the wellbeing of all children and families if they need to change schools?
Primary schools are highly experienced in supporting children that transition to secondary schools, as well as those that are transferring from one school to another during the school year.
Since the beginning of the year, the Council has been working closely with the six schools and will continue to do so, offering them information, support and assistance needed to help families and children during the process.
If the final decision of the Cabinet is to proceed with the proposed plans, the Council will work together with schools and families to make sure that proper transition plans are in place, and there is no negative impact on the children’s wellbeing.
The Council is also ready to help schools assist parents and carers when making a decision on moving their children to a different school.
95% of the primary schools in Hackney are rated good or outstanding. If the Cabinet’s decision in December is to proceed with the proposed changes, we are confident that families and children affected will receive the support they need to feel welcomed and thrive in their new schools.
Parents and children can also access The Wellbeing and Mental Health in Schools (WAMHS) service by asking their school directly and getting in touch with the school’s Designated Mental Health Lead.
Will there be more support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)?
Most schools in Hackney have a high proportion of pupils with SEND, and one of the Council’s ambitions is to deliver at least 300 new SEND places in the borough in new settings and in existing schools.
Unfortunately, children with SEND are impacted more by the reduced funding, as schools under financial pressure may cut spending for support services, such as teaching assistants.
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.
What will happen with the staff of the schools affected?
We acknowledge the serious impact these proposals have on staff wellbeing prior to any final decision and the direct impact on the lives and livelihood of staff should the decision to close or merge schools go ahead. In view of this we will ensure those staff have access to an employee assistance programme, where they can access confidential advice and counselling.
In the event of closures, the Council will do everything it can to help staff find alternative roles in schools across Hackney. However, as a last resort, some staff will be offered redundancy, which the Council hopes would be managed through voluntary redundancies and retirements.
In the event of a merger, we will work with the leadership teams of the affected schools to assess the full impact on staff. Governors and school leaders in receiving schools will lead the significant changes brought by these proposals.
Those affected will be supported through practical support such as application and CV writing, interview skills and potential job opportunities in other Hackney Schools. A particular emphasis will be given to supporting support staff, many of whom are Hackney residents.
Staff and all other relevant parties including trade unions would continue to be consulted about any potential changes.
How will you ensure standards of teaching are maintained between now and any potential merger/closure?
The schools will receive regular support from the Council’s experienced school improvement team, all of whom are former or serving headteachers or school leaders, and there will be additional support where needed. Staff will continue to access training and development in the same way.
What will the school sites be used for?
The process of looking to potentially close or merge schools is still underway, and no final decision will be made until December 2023.
If the proposals are approved, we would look to work through the potential for each site in its local context and we would seek to do our best to steer these sites into locally relevant and valuable uses mindful of the extreme financial pressure the Council is under and the need to minimise the impact on our finances.
A summary of the ongoing review of alternative options for sites that would close as a result of these proposals would be provided for the December Cabinet report.
We will take into account the views of the community, the needs of the local neighbourhood, and the need for financial sustainability.
What if the number of children increases and there is more need for school places in the future?
According to the numbers published by The Greater London Authority, the decrease in the number of primary school aged children will continue to affect the borough until at least 2032.
When looking at the proposed solutions to respond to this trend, we took into account any planned development work that could impact the number of families with young children in the areas affected.
The Council has a statutory duty to provide enough high quality school places for all school aged children in the borough. We take our mission of making education work for every child very seriously, and we are always considering the best options when proposing changes that impact our schools.
Should future demand for reception places suddenly increase, there is existing physical capacity within schools to absorb additional children, and additional places could always be added if needed. It's also possible for additional accommodation to be built in the future on some school sites that have potential, in order to add more capacity.
The Council aims to hold between 5% and 10% unused reception places for any potential growth in demand in the future. There are also currently between 240 and 330 unused places in Hackney primary schools that could easily be brought back into use if needed.
What are you going to do to attract more families to live in the borough, to avoid other schools being closed or merged?
Hackney is an incredible place with amazing people, and we want to make sure it remains the heart of London: diverse, vibrant, creative, exciting, economically adaptable, and fairer for all.
We have been doing everything possible to support families living in Hackney, despite central government policies that negatively impacted the affordability of housing in inner London.
There are proposed areas for regeneration and new housing across the borough and in some of the areas close to the schools covered in this report. However, despite the extensive Council and family housing planned, the expected initial child yield is low and would not impact medium to long term demand.
For the projected figures we have there would remain enough school places to accommodate need. Projections obtained annually from the Greater London Authority take into account proposed new developments that have attained planning permission.
Despite Hackney building new homes the numbers will be insufficient to have any significant impact on the proposals in this report for schools in scope for closure and/or merger.
More information about the current and future plans can be found in the September Cabinet report.
Are other primary schools at risk?
We will continue to look and respond to falling pupil numbers. The Council has a legal duty to ensure that schools provide high quality places for the children. And we need to ensure all our schools continue to provide excellent education, with good resources and facilities.
The Council will continue to work together with our schools to review and adjust future plans to bring surplus reception places to within a sustainable range.
We know schools have very close - sometimes multigenerational - ties to their local area and communities, that’s why proposing closing and merging 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 stability for our school staff, must remain a priority.
Can the Council guarantee that the schools children would move to wouldn’t also close in a few years?
The decrease in the number of school aged children is a London-wide issue that has been affecting the majority of boroughs since 2015, and is projected to continue to affect Hackney. Finding long term solutions to manage the challenge of falling rolls, together with the primary schools affected the most, is an important part of the Council’s strategy. All proposals are based on data, and take into account schools’ financial sustainability and the specifics of the local area.
We are committed to securing the future of Hackney schools, to provide continuity for children and families as much as possible, and to avoid disruptions.
Given the scale of the problem and the large number of factors that influence it outside the Council’s control, we are unfortunately unable to provide absolute assurances. We will continue to work together with schools and to lobby the central government for help, not just for Hackney, but also for other London boroughs that are facing similar problems.
Why is the Council considering closing or merging some small one-form entry primary schools?
Smaller schools that don’t have sufficient pupils to fill their classrooms can be disproportionately affected by the decrease in funding.
Reduced budgets impact on schools’ ability to set aside sufficient funds to deal with day to day repair and maintenance issues, as resources must be prioritised to deal with staffing and delivery of education.
This can have a significant impact on larger school buildings and sites with fewer pupils, which will have higher premises costs. Underinvestment will create longer term issues and increased need for future funding to deal with a lack of maintenance.
Many schools who have had their pupil numbers reduced or capped still have larger buildings and sites to maintain, while having a significantly smaller budget.
Will secondary schools be affected later on?
The admission process for secondary schools for Sept 2023 saw demand for places at Hackney secondary schools remain high. In the next 2-5 years, the number of pupils starting secondary school in Hackney (and London) is expected to start to drop. The good results and popularity of Hackney secondary schools will help to protect them, despite the expected reduction in the number of children in Hackney. This year, there have been 61 more offers for Hackney secondary schools to out-of-borough children in 2023 compared to 2022.
There are no plans to close or merge secondary schools. There is currently a small surplus in secondary schools, which is set to peak in September 2025, before falling again.
Where can I find more information about the number of pupils and the demand for reception places in Hackney?
You can read an analysis of past, current and projected demand and summary of reception places removed to date that was included in the September 2023 Cabinet report, available here.
How can I share my views on the proposals?
Parents and carers, staff, and all other interested stakeholders were able to share their views as part of the consultation that took place in June-July 2023. The opinions and comments submitted during this stage were considered and included in the Cabinet report published prior to the September 2023 Cabinet meeting.
A total of 613 postal and online questionnaires had been received during the consultation period, and a further 9 responses were received by other routes. 89% of the responses were against the proposals, with 8% agreeing and 3% neither agreeing or disagreeing.
Read the consultation report.
If the Cabinet decides in September 2023 to proceed to the next step, the Council will publish statutory notices, followed by a 28-day representation period during which people and organisations can send their views to the Council.
Why is the Cabinet still considering the proposals, if the majority of those consulted were against them?
The September Cabinet report advises that the Council should still proceed publishing statutory proposals.
This is because the objective factors that are at the basis of the proposals sadly have not changed, and, based on the latest information available to us, their negative impact on the education system in Hackney as a whole is projected to continue for years to come:
- There are simply not enough children in the borough and neighbouring areas seeking places at Hackney primary schools, and this is currently forecast to continue to be a problem in the following years. 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.
- Schools with insufficient funding find it increasingly difficult to operate effectively without exhausting reserve funds or going into deficit. This financial pressure forces schools to make difficult decisions including reducing staff, putting off investment or maintenance, or finding other savings, all of which can significantly impact the overall quality of education.
- The Council is ultimately liable for the deficit of maintained schools, and cumulative bailouts could have disastrous impact on the council's overall finances - at a time when it is already required to make significant savings. The longer the Council delays taking action, the greater the financial burden it will inherit.
You can find the latest information in the latest Cabinet report, published here.