Council consults on cutting school places

Council consults on cutting school places
Credit Julia Gregory

Education bosses are planning to reduce the number of places at primary and secondary schools in Islington because of falling school rolls.

Falling school rolls are hitting budgets because government funding is based on the number of pupils.

The council has launched a consultation asking parents what they think.

Lower birth rates, Brexit, the high cost of housing and the exodus from the city because of the pandemic have all affected school admission numbers in London.

Islington Council has already merged Copenhagen and Vittoria primary schools and was planning to close Pooles Park, which has since become an academy. This was because of the drop in the number of pupils.

Town hall bosses said the lower number of pupils is now feeding through to the borough’s secondaries for the first time. The vacancy rate is now 16 per cent, higher than the five per cent surplus capacity the government said is manageable.

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Government funding is based on the number of pupils and class reductions affect school budgets.

The Arts and Media School in Finsbury Park has 20 unfilled places this year. The school is reducing its year seven intake from 150 pupils to 120 pupils in September 2025.

Its admission numbers were already cut from 180 to 150 in 2020 and Beacon High School in Tufnell Park dropped its year seven intake from 180 to 120. The City of London Multi-Academy Trust has reduced the admission number for entry in September 2024 to City of London Academy, in Highbury Grove from 240 to 210.

Overall, the council is planning to reduce the number of year seven intake at ten schools from 1,675 to 1,560 in 2025/26 to cope with the shortage of pupils.

The council said it must also look at cutting the number of places in primary schools.

“Our latest evidence on births, health visiting and GP registrations (of children under 12 months), indicate that a year-on-year reduction in births across the local area is likely to remain an ongoing trend,” the consultation said.

The council thought a ten per cent surplus capacity is reasonable, but several areas have much higher vacancies.

Barnsbury has a 32 per cent vacancy rate, with 83 spare desks in reception classes. In Hornsey there are 141 unfilled places, with a 30 per cent vacancy rate.

Overall, there are 468, or 21 per cent, of reception class vacancies in the six areas across Islington.

The council is planning to cut 150 primary spaces in 2025/26 and said they can be replaced if the need grows.

It would see Prior Weston Primary in Bunhill and Rotherfield Primary in Canonbury each reduce their reception from 60 to 30 places.

Drayton Park Primary would cut the number of reception places from 45 to 30 and Tufnell Park Primary would reduce its intake from 90 to 60.

The consultation also asks parents what they think about the  admissions criteria and runs until Friday 1 December.

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