Formal consultation on school closure

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Formal consultation on school closure
Credit Catherine Galvin

Parents are hoping for a reprieve for a Finsbury Park primary school at risk of closure because of falling numbers.

Pooles Park primary has 223 empty places and Islington’s executive of senior councillors are poised to approve formal consultation about closing it because of the loss of funds.

Just over half of the desks are empty, with 20 children in reception this year, when there is space for 45 and 182 pupils overall, despite space for 405.

It means the school loses £5,700 per empty space and Islington’s Executive of senior councillors is likely to agree a formal consultation over its future on Thursday (JUNE 22) unless an academy steps in.

It is the latest Islington school under threat of closure and falling rolls are blamed on drops in the birth rate, Brexit, the cost of living and house price crisis and families leaving London.

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Half of Islington’s schools across the borough are projecting budget deficits budgets by the end of 2024-25 meaning a £5.5m drop in income.

The Department of Education stepped in at Pooles Park because of an inadequate rating by Ofsted inspectors last autumn.

This meant the government could invite academies to run the school instead and familes are pinning their hopes on this. A decision is expected this month.

Three academies were understood to be interested and parents said one of the bidders returned for a second look.

The school would get a reprieve from closure if it gets an academy sponsor. The building on Lennox Road would be leased to them on a long-term lease.

Parents said despite the Ofsted rating they value the school and said it was like a “family.”

They praised its pastoral care and said it was supportive for children with special needs.

One parent said it was “a community school, not simply a school situated within a community”.

The council held a five week informal consultation and held a series of meetings with staff and parents.

It had 231 responses, including 30 from current school parents. More than three quarters of them said they were against closure.

The council said: “Closing a school is the very last option we want to consider but where numbers are so low in an area the funding means that closure must be considered to ensure a high quality of education can be provided.”

A town hall report said: “As expected with any proposed school closure, respondents were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal and most shared their positive personal and family experiences of the school and the important role the school plays in the local community.”

Parents highlighted the importance of the school’s community garden, especially for children with special needs.

Education bosses pledged to “ensure there is full support for pupils and families for the transition to another school should this proposal go ahead.”

A petiton with 133 signatures calling for the school and its staff to stay was also presented to the council.

The petition signed by parents and carers said: “We are aghast that such a unique school should close. To us it would make more sense to close another school on a more polluted site and have those children move to the site upon which our school currently sits.”

“The fact that you are looking to close the school indicates to us that until us parents started campaigning you really had no idea what the school was like and were simply looking at figures on spreadsheets.”

Parents said the school has high numbers of disadvantaged children and “in spite of those challenges, staff have managed to create a loving nurturing environment that gives each child a strong sense of self-worth and eases the anxieties of parents and carers.”

They described pastoral care and child safeguarding, as “on another level of awesomeness.”

If Thursday’s executive agrees a four week consultation would start on June 29 and a report would come back to the council for a final decision.
The school could shut by he end of December.

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