Walworth families told their school is likely to close in September because of falling numbers

Hundreds of parents look likely to have to find new classes for their children after they were told their school is likely to close.

Townsend Primary School in Townsend Street, just off the Old Kent Road in Walworth, looks likely to shut on September 1.

It comes only four months after parents at another school, St John’s Walworth, just 400 yards away, were told it will also close.

Southwark council is staging consultations on the closure of Townsend as a result of falling numbers of children – because not enough people with young families live in the area.

Formal consultation begins on January 3 2022, as the whole area has been hit by plummeting numbers of children – though Townsend has 162 pupils.

Chair of governors Norma McCance said in a letter last week: “It is with great sadness that I write this letter to you; a letter that I hoped I would never have to write.

“Over the last three years both the Governors and the Local Authority (LA) have worked together on exploring other options, but reluctantly they have had to take this decision.

“For the last five years, there have been falling numbers across all London Boroughs. This area of Southwark has had the highest fall of numbers. Schools that have 2 forms have been reduced to 1 form. Some schools are amalgamating. Townsend’s numbers continue to fall because there are not enough children in the area.

“This has resulted in the school being unable to finance the staff and provision for our pupils. The Governors, Headteacher and LA have looked at several ways to make Townsend financially viable. We could not combine classes into one class, because the numbers did not allow this. We have explored an amalgamation with another school, but after several months, this proved too difficult.

“We recognise that this news will be difficult to receive, particularly in the midst of what has been an extremely challenging period due to Covid-19. Sadly, there is no good time to receive such news.

“Mrs [Anne] Stonell [headteacher] and her team, the Governors and the LA will be available throughout the consultation period to respond to your questions and to offer support.

“Mrs Stonell and staff will be available in the playground to offer support before and after school.

“We know our children will need support and need to talk about this, we therefore have planned class activities and discussions regarding this news. As you know, we will be there to support and reassure all of our children and our parents throughout this process. No decision has been made to close the school.”

Parent Katy Skriven said: “No one is giving us a straight answer about whether the decision has already been made. Children and many parents will assume it is going ahead – but no one will say for sure.

“We need to show the children we want to stand up for their futures. There are parents who are vulnerable and need to be supported. It is appalling. Closure would be a stab right in the heart of this community.”

All stakeholders and the local community will be asked for their views on the proposed closure and to see if there is any other option than closure during the consultation, from January 3–February 14.

One nearby school, Surrey Square, 600 yards away to the south, is near to capacity.

Parents of another school, in debt to the tune of over £200,000, were told in July it is set to close as pupil numbers plummet.

The 156-year-old St John’s Walworth Church of England Primary School, just 400 yards away to the west in Larcom Street, and also in Southwark, will close in September after falling pupil rolls placed “irreversible pressure on the school budget”.

The total cost of the closure is expected to be about £470,000, including the school’s current budget deficit of £227,000 and other costs such as redundancies, site security, and uniforms for children transferring to other schools.

 


 

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