Primary schools in Kensington and Chelsea face drop in pupils

By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter

Primary schools in Kensington and Chelsea are facing an 11 per cent vacancy rate with 861 vacant places at schools across the borough which could lead to a reduction in the number of entry level classes.

Over the last three years primary schools in Kensington and Chelsea saw the number of pupils drop by 0.5 per cent, with particular stresses in the north of the borough.

The latest census data released last October shows another slight fall, and it is predicted to increase.

It could mean that one or two forms of entry are removed across the borough, according to the council’s director of education, Ian Heggs.

Jagdeep Birdi, the executive head teacher at Colville in Portobello and Marlborough in Chelsea, said: “We were made aware that caps had already been put in place informally.”

He said Kensington and Chelsea faces smaller reductions than neighbouring Westminster.

However he told the schools forum (Mon Jan 18) that applications for the next school year “are markedly lower”.

He said it was in the schools’ interests to have healthy school rolls  “as more schools will be at risk and earlier than we thought”.

David Sellens, the head teacher of Thomas Jones School in north Kensington said the council also needs to look at the challenges it faces over the next ten to 20 years.

The primaries which saw drops in numbers between October 2019 and last October and meet the criteria for a total of £111,393 falling rolls funding in 2021/22, are North Kensington schools Barlby, Oxford Gardens, St Mary’s Catholic and  St Charles Catholic primary, Park Walk in Chelsea and Our Lady of Victories in South Kensington.

However many primaries in the borough have seen a reduction in rolls.

Overall the number of primary school pupils in the area fell by 114 between October 2019 and October 2020 when there were 6,608 pupils registered on the school roll.

By contrast the borough’s state secondaries and academies saw an increase of 101 pupils on their rolls, with a total of 4,915 pupils.

The falling number of primary-aged pupils, and  changes to funding, “is putting significant strain on primary school budgets”, according to Mr Heggs. Around half of all state-funded primary schools had an in-year deficit in 2018-19 and by December 2020 three maintained primary schools were reporting an overall deficit.

Natalie Parish from research and advisory company ISOS Partnership, said the birth projections for the next four to five years “do not look terribly good” for RBKC. However she pointed out the borough “has a very strong tradition of importing pupils”.


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