Primary schools in central London are shrinking while some have closed down, because families are abandoning the capital and having fewer children.
A new report by Westminster Council shows a total of 9,662 children had their first day at a new primary school this month, compared with 10,073 in 2018. The drought of new pupils meant Ark Paddington Green Primary School had to close during the summer, and merge with King Solomon Academy. Minerva Free School in Praed Street, Paddington, closed in 2018 after just six years of low intake and poor Ofsted ratings. Its building will instead be used by Marylebone Boys’ School sixth form.
The report, ‘School Organisation and Investment Strategy 2019-20’, stated that several other primary schools have cut pupil places, including Burdett Coutts CofE Primary School, near Westminster Cathedral, which has gone from having 378 pupils to 210. Hallfield Primary in Bayswater fell from 630 pupils to 420 Wilberforce Primary in Queen’s Park has also gone from 420 to 210 St Edward’s Catholic School has halved in size, and now has one class in reception to Year 2.
These changes eliminated a total of 1,190 spare places across all the primary year groups across the borough.
Another report by the Greater London Authority said birth rates have been falling since 2012, meaning fewer children have been starting school since 2017.
Moreover, there has been “a continued increase in domestic migration of families out of London” due to soaring housing costs, which means London is “losing children” to the rest of the UK.
It also pointed to a fall in the number of children migrating to London with their families from other countries.
When working out whether there are enough school places, the council also has to take into account that thousands of pupils come from places such as Kensington, Kilburn and Battersea.
Strangely, the shortfall of new pupils has come after years of investment to help some primary schools expand. This is because in 2012, it was feared that the opposite might happen, and that Westminster would have too few primary schools.
The report points to how Christ Church Bentinck CE School in Marylebone expanded in 2012, but is now experiencing a “falling role”.
However, it is hoped that housing regeneration projects in the borough, such as the Church Street Masterplan, which could see 1,700 new homes built, may bring about a new rise in pupil numbers in the years ahead.