‘We’re disappointed’: Parents threaten council with legal action over school closure plans

Save Colvestone campaigners outside the Town Hall in May. Photograph: Julia Gregory

A group of parents have threatened Hackney Council with legal action over its plans to close four schools where pupil numbers have been on the decline.

The Town Hall’s cabinet has agreed to publish statutory proposals to close four primaries – De Beauvoir, Randal Cremer, Colvestone and Baden Powell.

Princess May Primary School will take pupils from Colvestone, with children from Baden Powell moving to Nightingale.

Colvestone parent Mike Cooter said: “We are disappointed by the decision and what it means for the future of the school. Many families picked Colvestone for their children because it has a single form entry.

“The council’s consultation gave no alternatives.”

Parents of children with special educational needs (SEND), who have been raising concerns about the challenges of moving their children to a new school, were visibly upset.

The Save Colvestone School campaign has served the council with a letter warning of their intend to take legal action over the closure.

The letter highlights concerns over provision for children with special educational needs (SEND), air quality at Princess May, and the housing developments in Dalston.

Deputy Mayor Anntoinette Bramble said putting forward the closures was a difficult decision that the council had agonised over.

Schools across London are facing falling rolls, with the biggest drops at primary schools.

Education bosses blame the issue on a falling birth rate, high housing costs, and families moving out of the capital because of Brexit and Covid.

Bramble told parents: “If I could change it I would. I cannot change the birth rate for children coming to school.”

She pledged that the council would work with families and staff to make the transition at the start of the next school year in September 2024 as easy as possible.

Colvestone parents, who were joined by their ward councillors Grace Adebayo (Labour) and Zoë Garbett (Green), asked if the council had considered the impact of 600 new homes in Dalston.

Deputy Mayor Bramble said: “Even with those projections, not enough children will be moving into the area.”

She said the council looked at its report carefully before bringing it to cabinet, and the campaign’s pre-action legal letter had been a consideration.

Dorothea Kanellopoulou, the SEND parents’ representative at Colvestone, questioned the council’s support after it initially gave them just over two weeks to select alternative schools for their children.

Bramble said the council is commissioning more SEND places and more staff to offer educational and psychological support.

Hackney’s 58 primaries lost out on £30m in government funding last school year. This is because government funding is based on the number of pupils attending each school.

The six schools earmarked for closure lost £4m after seeing their total number of unfilled reception places go from six out of 270 in 2014 to 101 out of 225.

In the last school year, Hackney’s primaries had 634 empty desks in reception – more than 20 per cent of available places.

Residents have 28 days to respond to the statutory notices agreed by cabinet.