Families are deserting London because they can’t afford to live in the city, a council has said as it moves to lower class sizes in two schools with falling pupil numbers.
Hillingdon Council has pushed forward with a proposal to lower the size of admissions to Whitehall Infant School and Whitehall Junior School from 120 new pupils a year to 90 pending a consultation, at the request of schools.
Under the plan, 30 fewer places for children at the schools would be accounted for in the council’s budget, a decision that council leader Ian Edwards said was required to address an overarching trend in London and the wider UK of falling pupil numbers.
The council has agreed to receive a further report at its meeting in February 2024 meeting to consider the consultation responses. The new admissions would take effect from September 1, 2025.
Figures published by local government association London Councils show that dropping numbers of pupils entering primary school in the capital will have a knock effect on education in the city as a whole.
It forecasts that demand for Year 7 places in secondary schools across London will drop by a total of 3.5% between 2022-23 and 2026-27, representing a slower rate of decline than at the primary level.
A council report says the borough currently has 14.8% of all primary school places vacant, double the 8% target which allows for flexibility in regards to mid-year transfers and parental demand in each area.
The report also states: “Both schools have raised concerns about changes in their local demand and the governing body supports the reduction since it will enable the school to focus their budget and resources better for pupils.”
Council leader Ian Edwards commented on the situation and the decision to pursue the reduction of school places. He said: “This is not an exception for Hillingdon, this reduction in [the] numbers of young people going into primary school is common across the country but it is exacerbated in London by the housing issue, where younger families are being priced out effectively of London and having to move further outside.
“So we are having to manage the situation of reduction of pupil numbers and this seems quite proportionate.”