Southwark warns 16 schools are in financial crisis and could close

Southwark council has warned schools could be forced to close if the Government doesn’t cough up extra cash.

Southwark has revealed 16 of its schools are in financial crisis and 37 could be by 2023.

Plummeting student numbers mean more schools in Southwark are spending more than they receive in funding.

Southwark council is urging the government to urgently inject £1.2 million into the borough’s schools to solve the escalating crisis.

Schools across the South London borough were running a £3 million budget deficit last year, Southwark’s cabinet member for education, Councillor Jasmine Ali, warned in a letter to education secretary Nadhim Zahawi.

A total of 17 schools were in financial crisis at the time of the letter – this has now dropped to 16.

Southwark have blamed falling student numbers on birth rates, an exodus of EU citizens from London following Brexit, and people relocating outside of the capital to work from home.

Schools in England are funded per pupil so the more students that attend a school, the more money it receives.

In a letter to the education secretary, Cllr Ali said schools across London were facing the same problem.

She wrote: “An immediate cash injection of £30.5m is required to prevent the closure of these schools and significant additional sums will be necessary in order to save more schools from falling into deficit.

“This is a pan-London issue, with dire consequences for inner-city areas like my borough, Southwark.

“Here we are seeing a £3m deficit, with 17 schools in deficit, projected to rise to 37 in the coming years. This summer I was forced to close a primary school.

“My counterparts in London are in the same position. If we don’t act fast, more school closures will inevitably follow.”

In a reply to Cllr Ali on November 9 2021, Mr Zahari said the Department of Education was already providing schools with billions of pounds of extra investment.

He added that 88 per cent of local authority schools were breaking even or in surplus across the county.

Southwark is refusing to reveal which schools are running budget deficits for fear parents will withdraw their children from those affected.

Southwark’s St John’s Walworth Primary School closed last year due to falling numbers. Nearby English Martyrs Roman Catholic Primary School was threatened with closure the same year.

Southwark has spent £200 million on improving schools in the borough since 2010. For years schools in the borough were oversubscribed and 95 per cent are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.

Cllr Jasmine Ali said: “The fact is across London there are not enough children to fill London schools. This is causing a funding gap in schools. I know this will worry families when they hear that it is happening, but we are working with each school affected, individually, to find a solution.

“We offer families and school staff our unwavering support; practical help and assurance that we want schools to continue to offer the exceptionally high standard of education young people already receive in Southwark.”

Pictured top: St John’s Walworth Primary School, which closed last year due to falling numbers Picture: Google Street View

 

 


 

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