Parents fight closure of Pooles Park Primary School

Parents are fighting the proposed closure of a primary school which they say provides an eco oasis for children who have little access to gardens of their own.

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Pooles Park Primary School
Photo: Julia Gregory/LDRS

Parents are fighting the proposed closure of a primary school which they say provides an eco oasis for children who have little access to gardens of their own.

The council is considering shutting Pooles Park school at the end of the Christmas term in December this year because it has falling rolls.

It currently has a 56% vacancy rate in its reception classes , with just 20 pupils this year , compared with 32 in 2019.

Overall the school has 196 pupils, down from 319 in 2018.

It could become an academy if education bosses find a suitable partner, which would mean it would not have to close.

The town hall said the London-wide problem is caused by a falling birth rate.

It has also been fuelled by a shortage of affordable homes and the cost of living crisis which has seen families leave London.

The council said it was considering this step as “schools with fewer pupils get less government funding, which risks their long-term future and the quality of education. We want to ensure a sustainable future for our schools, and excellent education for our children so that they have the best start in life.”

The school was also rated as inadequate by Ofsted inspectors when they visited last year. They said like pupils enjoy coming to school and said personal development was good but rated the school overall as inadequate and put it in special measures.

The Ofsted rating means the government can invite academies to take over.

Regional Department of Education bosses are considering applications from interested academy trusts which already run other schools. If it finds a suitable trust Pooles Park would become an academy and will not shut.

Islington council is asking people what they think about proposals to shut Pooles Park school.

Its consultation asks people if they understand the reasons for the proposed closure and to rate whether they agree with it or not. It closes on May 26.

Campaigner Catherine Galvin said the school offers a much needed green oasis for children and is urging residents to add their voice to the protest.

She said: “The school’s community garden is, for the majority of children, the only garden they have.

“It has been planted and regularly cared for by the children, families and thousands of volunteers over the years.
“Every child who attends Pooles Park engages in our Environmental Education Project and has positive, personal, hands-on interaction with the rest of nature through growing organic food and a variety of other plants as well as exploring and caring for all the wildlife.”

The school has picked up a range of eco awards for its environmental work – including WWF’s Green Ambassadors award, Eco-Schools Environmental Innovation award, Best Environmental School award, London in Bloom and Islington in Bloom.

Ms Galvin said: “It is “vital it is that the children are able to continue to attend their much loved Garden School where they have every opportunity to be outside learning through having much needed, hands-on interaction with the rest of nature as part of their daily school lives.”

Another parent who has four children at the school praised it for its “helpful hands” and spoke about the worry of finding an alternative school which is not “overcrowded and far from where we live.”

The council’s executive will reach a final decision in June.

Town hall bosses said it was not viable to keep both primaries open, blaming Brexit, the cost of living and high house prices fuelling the exodus from the city. They said both schools were under-subscribed over the last six years.

Earlier this month the council formally agreed to merge Copenhagen and Vittoria Primary schools from the end of August. Pupils will attend school at the Copenhagen site. It said there was a 29% vacancy rate in reception classes amongst Barnsbury schools.

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