‘Frustrated’ parents challenge council’s decision to close four Hackney primary schools

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

A group of Hackney parents is challenging the council’s decision to shutter four primary schools in response to falling pupil numbers.

In a move that many parents had long feared, the Town Hall earlier this month rubber-stamped plans to close Baden Powell, Colvestone, De Beauvoir and Randal Cremer primaries in September 2024.

Colvestone is set to be folded into nearby Princess May Primary School, while Baden Powell will merge with Nightingale Primary.

But Save Colvestone campaigners, who have been fighting the proposals since they were first mooted, are refusing to give up in the face of what they describe as “dismissive and patronising” behaviour from the council.

They have already put in a request to have the decision ‘called in’, which will see it debated at a scrutiny committee meeting early next year.

The committee has the ability to either amend the decision, send it back to cabinet to reconsider, or uphold it.

Save Colvestone is also re-drafting a pre-notice to action letter for a judicial review, which could see the closures challenged in the High Court.

Helen Davis, a parent and representative of the campaign, described the mergers, which exclude teachers and school staff, as “appalling”.

She said: “The council should be ashamed of themselves. I don’t believe you can call it a merger if you don’t take members of staff with you.”

Davis, who has lived in Hackney for 24 years, praised Colvestone as a “lovely, small, close-knit community school”.

She emphasised the high proportion of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who attend the school – a key part of the campaign’s efforts to stop the plans.

Davis added: “The council could’ve merged two at-risk schools, but they slammed doors in faces.”

She called the decision a “blow”, but said “it’s not over yet”.

She also claimed that the majority of Colvestone parents do not intend to send their children to Princess May – with 90 per cent of them not putting the school in their top six preferences when initially deciding on a primary.

Mike Cooter, another parent involved in the campaign, added: “School is a big part of a child’s identity. There’s no familiarity or preservation for the kids through the merger.”

Cooter accused the council of being “very dismissive and patronising” throughout the consultation process.

“We were treated as though we didn’t understand what it was about. It’s been very frustrating, to be honest.”

He said campaigners had to wait months for data they had requested from the council.

They also disagree with the Town Hall’s predictions about how house-building projects in Dalston will affect pupil numbers.

The council says new homes will have little impact, but campaigners believe population changes could mean as many as 250 extra children are available to local schools in the coming years.

The campaign has also questioned why no changes were made to the plans in light of an overwhelmingly negative response to them in the council’s consultation.

Cooter said: “Why they are pursuing these drastic plans when [pupil] numbers could go up and see the schools protected? Instead, they will be lost forever.”

A spokesperson for Hackney Council said: “There are simply not enough children in the borough and neighbouring areas seeking places at primary schools. This is forecast to remain a problem in the following years.

“Hackney schools currently have over 600 empty places in reception classes alone – a 21 per cent surplus. A healthy surplus is between five and 10 per cent.”

Cllr Antoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor and cabinet member for children’s services and education, said the closures are “the only way to ensure that we can minimise the long-term negative impact on Hackney education at a time of extreme financial pressure”.