Hackney headteacher fears impact of school closures

Empty classroom at Springfield Primary School in Belfast as primary 1 through to 3 children return t

A Hackney headteacher says planned developments must be taken into account in future school place projections. - Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A headteacher has accused councillors of planning secondary school closures on the back of faulty data.

Richard Brown, head at Hackney's Urswick School, feels schools in the borough are at risk of closure under plans outlined in the council's admissions report. 

Hackney now has a surplus of around 500 new primary school places and the council's school organisation plan for 2020-25 has not ruled out closures, despite noting the disruption they would cause. 

No school closures have been announced, but Mr Brown is wary of the possibility.

Speaking at a recent children and young people’s scrutiny commission, he said: "I can’t see anything in this report for the projection of surplus secondary school places that takes into account planned housing developments for future years.”

But Hackney's education chief Anntoinette Bramble insisted that housing developments are taken into account in the planning – and pointed out that free schools "can tackle future demand by setting up without warning from the council”.

She added: "We’ve got to look at how you support schools in the number they have now but knowing that could change with developments and families moving in.

“That is definitely part of the strategic approach going forward.”

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The admissions report warns that a “significant number of surplus secondary school places” will inform a “Hackney school organisation strategy to shape and manage school places and school property usage for the coming decade”.

And Hackney Director of Education Anne Canning told an April Audit committee meeting that a surplus of 500 primary places would create “significant financial risk” for secondary schools.

Eleven primary schools in the borough have already either agreed or implemented caps on future pupil admissions to save resources.

Mr Brown claimed that closing schools without fully taking into account future developments could see families “travelling to the other side of the borough in the future because of planned cuts in secondary schools based on data that doesn’t stack up”.

He said the report was based on an assumption "that the number of kids currently in primary school will be exactly replicated by the time they go to secondary school – and that’s also the assumption at the moment, to reduce the number of primary school places".

Mr Brown added that in reducing "so-called surplus places, you reduce parental choice". 

The council was approached for further comment.