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Children struggling for school places in London following birth rate decrease

Research has discovered London’s outstanding school system is under threat as an exodus of families from the capital is forcing increasing numbers of schools to close.

New data, which has been gathered by the cross-party council representative body London Councils, has highlighted that London is expecting a total drop in demand of around 7,900 places over the next four years.

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Experts outlined that for primary schools this equates to a drop of some 128 classes and 134 for secondary.  

Shockingly, in seven boroughs that are situated across the city this estimation would equal to more than 10% of the school population, however, four boroughs are predicted to see an increase in demand.

According to the new report, Lambeth is expected to see that largest drop in pupils, followed by City of London, Lewisham, Westminster, and Camden. Although areas including Havering, Kingston upon Thames, Barking and Dagenham and Waltham Forest are due to experience an increase.

As noted in the report, two of the reasons school places are becoming few and far between is due to more families leaving London as a result of Brexit, the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis and a falling birth rate.

It means schools, which are funded according to the number of pupils they have, will be forced to either close or to balance their budgets by cutting teachers, narrowing the curriculum, or offering fewer after-school clubs, robbing children of vital time to engage in their hobbies.

The report said the drop in demand for school places is unlikely to reverse and ‘will worsen in many areas.’

‘This means there is the potential for greater reductions in pupil numbers in schools and the threat of further school closures in coming years,’ the report added.

In addition, research found the birth rate in London was discovered to have dropped by 17% between 2012 and 20212 – the equivalent of over 23,225 births.

As a result, the report, which was published on Monday, is calling for councils to direct children to academies in a bid to try and reduce pupil numbers and to conjure up a long-term plan that ensures a school remains financially viable.

‘London boroughs are seeing a significant reduction in the number of pupils beginning primary and secondary education, which has major implications for the future of schools across the capital,’ Cllr Ian Edwards, London Councils Executive Member for Children and Young People said. ‘This report comes at a time when unfortunately some of our schools and local authorities are negotiating a complex balancing act. The drop in demand for places means schools face extremely difficult decisions over how to balance their budgets.’

Cllr Edwards added: ‘London has some of the best schools in the country, with over 90 per cent 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.’

Image: Henry Be

More on this topic:

A for effort: government introduces national drive to improve school attendance

Youth Endowment Fund suggests violence is causing children to skip school


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