A Hackney headteacher has accused councillors of planning secondary school closures on the back of faulty data.
Speaking at a recent children and young people’s scrutiny commission meeting, Urswick School boss Richard Brown claimed that the council’s admissions report doesn’t fully take into account future housing developments – meaning demand could suddenly spike when new residents move in.
He pointed to a Tower Hamlets plan to build a new primary school to serve a large-scale housing development in the Wood Wharf district of Canary Wharf – even though existing data shows a surplus of places.
The report warns that a “significant number of surplus secondary school places” will inform a “Hackney school organisation strategy to shape and manage school places and school property usage for the coming decade”.
And Hackney Director of Education Anne Canning told an April audit committee meeting that a surplus of 500 primary places would create “significant financial risk” for secondary schools.
Eleven primary schools in the borough have already either agreed or implemented caps on future pupil admissions to save resources.
Brown claimed that closing schools without fully taking into account future developments could see families “travelling to the other side of the borough in the future because of planned cuts in secondary schools based on data that doesn’t stack up”.
He said: “Everything in this report looks really clear, but it’s based on an assumption that the number of kids currently in primary school will be exactly replicated by the time they go to secondary school – and that’s also the assumption at the moment to reduce the number of primary school places.
“Tower Hamlets are about to build a new primary school, and when I look at why it’s because they have looked at housing developments that are taking place in a particular part of the borough, and they realise that their borough needs another primary school – even though we’re constantly told that every inner London borough is projecting falling rolls.
“Every time you reduce so-called surplus places, you reduce parental choice. It means less people are likely to get the school of their choice because there’s less slack in the system.
“As an example, this report says Mossbourne Primary School Parkside is taking 57 out-of-borough places. Mossbourne Community Academy currently has very few out-of-borough children, but its admissions policy says they give preference to Mossbourne Parkside.
“If down the line, there are going to be a greater number of out-of-borough kids attending Mossbourne Academy as secondary school kids, then these numbers don’t work.
“I’m a local boy, I know about the development at the Tesco on Morning Lane.
“Let’s look at the impact of that, let’s look at the impact of families who if we’re not careful will be travelling to the other side of the borough in the future because of planned cuts in secondary school Published Admission Numbers which are based on data that doesn’t stack up.
“I can’t see anything in this report for the projection of surplus secondary school places base that takes into account planned housing developments for future years.”
Labour Councillor Anntoinette Bramble insisted that housing developments are taken into account in the planning – and pointed out that free schools can tackle future demand by setting up without warning from the council.
She added: “I think you’ve made a fair point, but just to reassure you we are looking across the council and I’m discussing this with the mayor in great detail.
“We’ve got to look at how you support schools in the number they have now but knowing that could change with developments and families moving in.
“That is definitely part of the strategic approach going forward.”
The council was approached for further comment but is yet to respond.