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Brent Council considers closing school amidst sharp decline in student demand

Brent Council has revealed plans to close a school site due to a dramatic fall in demand for places over the past few years.

The council is exploring the possibility of closing one of the two Leopold Primary Schools sites, cutting the number of pupils by 50 per cent in the process.

The school in Harlesden was split between two sites back in 2015 to deal with a shortage of school places – the main facility on Hawkshead Road and the Gwenneth Rickus Building on Brentfield Road. The council has now proposed closing the Brentfield Road site since demand has plummeted.

A consultation process is taking place to get residents’ views on the plan, which, if given the go ahead, would go ahead from September 2025. It would see the total number of pupils at the school be cut from 120 to 60.

A document released by the council blames a decline in birth rates, the rising cost-of-living, Brexit, and the Covid pandemic for the fall in demand. It states reducing the school’s capacity is essential to “ensure the long term sustainability of primary schools”.

Demand for places has reduced since its peak in 2017 and is continuing to fall, according to the council. A school’s budget is linked to pupil numbers, a drop in admissions means a reduction in government funding.

Brent Council said this can “create financial pressure on schools and impact on the quality of education”. The local authority has been using spare capacity for other purposes, such as SEND facilities, but claims this has “not proved sufficient” to tackle the challenge of reduced funding.

Under the plans, no new children will start in the reception of the Gwenneth Rickus Building site, with the school reverting to one site with 60 pupils in reception through to Year 6. The council have warned that the plans “could mean staff redundancies”.

Brent Council considers closing school amidst sharp decline in student demand Harrow Online
Leopold Primary School, Hawksmead Road Site. The plan will see the number of pupils at Leopold Primary School cut from 120 to 60. Image Credit: Google

Leopard Primary School is one of 12 schools in the Primary Place Planning Area 4, which covers Stonebridge, Roundwood, and Harlesden and Kensal Green. There are currently 5,985 places available in these schools, however, there has been a significant reduction in pupils enrolled over the past six years – from 5,249 in 2017 to just 4,120 in 2023.

Brent Council has assured parents that there are “sufficient spare places” in other schools to meet the future demand. Residents have now been asked for their views on two options proposed by the local authority.

Option 1 involves a “phased closure”, which would mean no Reception classes on the site from 2024 and children in other year groups at the Brentfield Road.either remaining on site or moving to the Hawkshead Road site. This would see Gwenneth Rickus staying open in some capacity until 2028.

Option 2 would mean the full closure of the site at a specific date, which the council suggests will be “more disruptive for families”. Under this option, all children being taught at the site would have to either move to the Hawksmead site or an alternative school to complete their education.

The consultation will remain open for the next six weeks. Residents have until Wednesday December 16 to give their views