Demand for school places in London is predicted to plummet as a result of decreasing birth rates, new data has found. The capital is expecting a drop in demand by around 7,900 places in the first years of primary and secondary schools over the next four years. This means a drop in 128 classes for primary and 134 for secondary. In seven boroughs, this forecast would amount to over 10% of the school’s population, though some are expected to see a rise in demand.
The analysis comes from London Councils, a cross-party council representative body. It also found that around a quarter of council-run schools are currently facing a funding deficit. Between 2012 and 2021, London saw a 17% drop in birth rate. House prices, the cost of living, and the pandemic are all among the factors that contributed to it, according to London Councils.
Primary schools receive around £6,000 per pupil, so the fewer pupils, the less funding for staff, curricula, and materials. The central boroughs are most affected with birth rates there expected to continue to decline. Hackney has closed or merged six primary schools and Camden and Islington have seen a number of schools close down in recent years.
Lambeth has announced plans for 4,000 fewer primary school places over seven years and Southwark has said that at least 16 schools are at risk. Camelot School in Bush Road and Cobourg School in Cobourg Road, both in Southwark, have merged to form Bird Bush School on the site of Camelot School.
The situation in Camden was “at a crisis point” according to National Education Union branch secretary Andrew Dyer. “It points to what Camden and other central boroughs may look like in the future and it’s bleak. It used to be a borough full of creativity with life and families,” he told the BBC. “Young teachers also can’t afford to live in the area as well, and when they hear about schools closing, taking a job in this borough is not an attractive prospect if it may close soon.”
If state schools are to be attractive for teachers as well as families, he added, they would need to be given assurance that they will not see their budgets cut.
“London has some of the best schools in the country,” Ian Edwards, London Councils executive member for children and young people, said, “with over 90% of all our schools being rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. We are working diligently to ensure that this level of high-quality education is accessible for all children entering schools in the coming years and allow our schools to thrive despite this difficult climate.”