Angry parents at schools threatened with closure given more time to pick alternatives – after branding council’s first deadline ‘disgusting’

Protest outside Colvestone Primary School earlier this year. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Angry parents at schools earmarked for closure have been granted more time to pick alternative options – after describing the council’s previous cut-off point as a “mockery”.

Parents of children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) at four primary schools were sent a letter giving them just 12 working days to select at least two options for where they could send their children.

The letter was dated 13 September and asked parents to come up with their choices by 1 October.

Hackney Council has since extended it to 31 October.

Dorothea Kanellopoulou, who is the SEND parents’ representative at Colvestone Primary, one of the four schools at risk, branded the initial deadline “a disgusting and inconsiderate way to treat us”.

She told Town Hall bosses: “You have not listened. You have ignored all our pleas and what is actually needed for our children’s education.

“You have not collaborated. You have not asked us how we need to be supported in this transition.

“You have not communicated in an outstanding way – far from it.”

She received the letter on 18 September, which would have given her just nine working days to select alternatives had the extension not been brought in.

Another Colvestone parent, Carine Lucchese, said: “I have no words for it.”

She described how it takes a month for her child to settle back into school.

She said: “For us to find a new school means we have to visit the school to understand the journey and see the support there. To take my child to a two- or three-form school would be a challenge.”

She added: “It’s not just looking at their website, it’s going there. It’s seeing how flexible the school will be.”

She thinks the council’s first deadline was “appalling”.

Announcing the extension, Cllr Caroline Woodley, cabinet member for families, parks and leisure, said: “We appreciate that the initial timeline for expressing a preference for a new school was tight, and some families were understandably concerned about this, especially those who might want to consider an additional resource provision or special schools.”

She added: “Our intention has always been to be as supportive as possible to all our families and children, and we apologise for the stress the letter sent last week has caused to some.

“We know that transition can be particularly difficult for children with SEND and it takes a lot of careful planning to minimise any potential negative impact on their wellbeing.

“From the beginning, our priority has been making sure families have access to the information and support needed to make an informed decision about their children’s future.”

Hackney’s cabinet is soon set to discuss a recommendation to publish statutory proposals to shut Colvestone, De Beauvoir, Randal Cremer, and Baden Powell primary schools from September 2024.

Children will be offered places at Princess May and Nightingale schools in the first instance.

The council said the schools are losing money because of a huge drop in the number of pupils.