School places crisis to damage Stokey’s identity as family haven?
Stokey parents whose children have been refused suitable primary school places say the Council should have seen this crisis coming and taken action.
An emotive letter, signed by 24 local parents, states that some families are considering moving to a new community to find reception places at suitable schools.
It follows news that 27 children in N16 face an anxious wait for a school reception place this year. The nearest schools with current vacancies are St Matthias, Simon Marks Jewish Primary and Harrington Hill in Upper Clapton. Campaigners say only offering a faith school or a school a 40 minute walk away is “unreasonable”.
The letter states: “It is obvious that there was a crisis looming and the supply of local infant places would be insufficient in 2014. 2010 was a boom year for births and a lack of planning has lead to this major issue.
“Attendance at local schools is vital for community cohesion, resilience and stability. They are a focal point for community identity and pride. The current lack of local infant places is in danger of shattering this community.”
The letter quotes the following statistics:
There are 180 Hackney infants without a reception place this year.
There were 4598 births in Hackney in 2010; 2690 infant places were available in Hackney in 2013 (including faith schools)
There is an obvious shortfall of 1908 reception places in Hackney.
There were 328 children between the ages of 0-2 in 2011 in Stoke Newington Central and Clissold and only 309 reception places awarded within schools located in Stoke Newington and Clissold last year.
It continues: “Given the projected rise in birth rate and population aged between 0-4 over the coming years (Stoke Newington has a birth rate above national average) the situation is only going to deteriorate.
“A local N16 bulge class in Stoke Newington Central or Clissold for 2014 would seem essential to prevent the detrimental effect on the community and our children. Indeed, a radical solution and strategic forward thinking for 2015 must also be seriously considered.
“Stoke Newington has long been known as a brilliant place to raise a family. We are confident that, working with the council and Learning Trust, we can ensure it stays that way. ”
Hackney Learning Trust say pupils in N16 would have gained places at Princess May School and Tyssen had they made these as preferences. However, N16 parents say that there were many other closer schools which, in previous years, would have fallen within their catchment area.
According to the Greater London Authority 2845 children in Hackney will need a reception place in 2014/15. The borough has 2940 places available. However, Infant Places in Local School Spaces have highlighted that 505 of these possible places are in religious schools and the majority of Hackney’s schools are at least an hour’s walk from Stoke Newington.
One parent who is part of the Infant Places group says “This is not a case of picky parents wanting only one very specific school for their kids - It’s just that the current solutions being offered by the Learning Trust aren’t genuine solutions. We accept a bulge class isn’t ideal, but there does not seem to be any other possible way to solve this. We have the support of some of Hackney's Councillors and intend to work with them to make this a reality.
“We know there are the funds available. Hackney Council estimated they'd need at £963,600 for all bulge classes and school expansions this year. A single bulge class will cost nowhere near that amount. As Hackney Council have ringfenced this money in a Growth Fund, why hasn't it been used to prevent this crisis?”
Hackney Learning Trust say they’ll only create a bulge class if late primary school applications bring the total number of reception place applications within Hackney to more or close to the total number of places available in the borough.
But in order to meet demand in future years, education chiefs are considering whether to add an additional form of entry at Sir Thomas Abney School, which has a large site. Other schools will also be considered.