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‘I don’t think we will be the last school to close down,’ says head

Concern over the future of education in Islington as pupil numbers continue to fall

26 March, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Clerkenwell Parochial Primary School

TALKS are taking place this week over the borough-wide issue of falling school rolls.

Pupil numbers are projected to fall year on year until 2023, a trend which has sparked concern over the future of Islington’s schools.

Crucially, the amount of children enrolling relates directly to the scale of government funding made available.

A falling birth rate combined with rising house prices in London have been blamed.

Clerkenwell Parochial Primary is due to close this year due to low pupil numbers.

Headteacher Amanda Szewczyk-Radley said: “I don’t think we are going to be the last school to close.

“There are a large number of vacancies in Islington at the moment, that was one of our problems. No one wants to close the school but Islington doesn’t look like it is going to grow [pupil numbers] for a while. A lot of inner London schools are having a lot of difficulty.”

Public records show Duncombe, Hungerford, Montem, New North Academy, Pooles Park, Prior Weston, Rotherfield and Tufnell Park primaries saw a decrease of at least 30 pupils in the last year – although there is no suggestion that these schools are close to closure.

One primary in neighbouring Camden has shut, and a second will close for good at the end of the summer term.

The drop-off at Clerkenwell has been blamed by some parents on an “inadequate” ­Ofsted report in 2016.

Ms Szewczyk-Radley added: “The families, the children and the staff are amazing.

“It feels like a really happy place having the kids back again even though we have this closure hanging over us. From the school’s point of view, we are making the most of every second and have really individualised the learning because of the smaller class sizes. Parents are incredibly complimentary about our provision for the children at the moment.”

Tony Buttifint from Islington NEU said: “Numbers are falling across London because of several factors, one is the cost of housing in London is driving people outwards.

“Since the pandemic and working from home people are moving outside of London and choosing to live in the countryside instead. It would be a good opportunity to look at reduced class sizes improving the provision for students who desperately need it.”

The council did not respond to requests for comment on the issue.

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