Islington Council approves merger of two Primary Schools

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Islington Council approves merger of two Primary Schools
Image credit Unsplash

Islington Council has approved the merger of two primary schools from August this year.

Montem Primary School in Finsbury Park will become part of Duncombe Primary school in Archway on 31 August.

All pupils from Montem Primary School have been guaranteed a place at Duncombe.

A council report said Duncombe was chosen as the new school site because “more existing pupils from both schools live closer to the Duncombe site”.

It added that “there are fewer schools nearby to Duncombe, meaning parental choice would be reduced if Duncombe closed”, and that Duncombe is “on a school street and has better air quality”.

The schools are a 15-minute walk apart.

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According to Islington Council, the schools are being merged due to their vacancy rate.

“Duncombe and Montem Primary schools are in the Hornsey planning area, which has the highest vacancy rate in Reception across all of Islington, with 32 per cent vacancies,” the report stated.

This figure is above both the Department for Education’s recommendation of a five per cent vacancy rate and the 10 per cent vacancy rate used by most local authorities across London.

The Town Hall said that the vacancies are collectively costing schools “over £300,000 funding for the Reception year alone”.

Falling pupil numbers are an issue in Islington because “each spare place leads to a loss in 2024/25 of an average of £6,058 for primary school pupils and £9,015 for secondary school pupils”.

According to the council, almost half of Islington’s schools are projecting deficit balances by the end of 2025/26, which is presently forecast to total £12.798m.

“We must take assertive action to tackle these deficits because if we do not, the deficit will have to be absorbed by the council’s general fund, putting additional pressure on an already stretched budget,” the report added.

Islington Council has promised to support parents, carers, and staff at Montem through the transition.

Part of that assistance incudes supporting “the cost of any new school uniform” and additional resources for the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) team.

In February, Green Party councillor Benali Hamdache said parents, teachers and trade unions said they “didn’t feel very listened to” over the merger.

He said parents were concerned whether the “very high quality” provision of SEN (Special Education Needs) for children with autism and disabilities that existed at Montem would be replicated at Duncombe because of financial strains on the borough.

Montem primary school was approached by the LDRS about the merger but it declined to comment.

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