Parents fight threatened Islington school closure

Falling school rolls blamed for closure threat

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

A group of parents stand at the school wall, one holding a petition
Concerned parents of pupils at Pooles Park Primary School, Lennox Rd, Islington. Photo: LDRS

Pooles Park primary in Finsbury Park is the latest London primary at risk of shutting. Council bosses blame the falling birth rate, the Brexit effect and the lack of affordable homes too for pushing young couples out of London.

Concerned parents spoke out about the school which “is like family” in their bid to prevent its closure because it does not have enough pupils.

just a few streets away from the childhood home of war photographer Don McCullin parents have a different fight on their hands.

They have collected 133 signatures in support so far and are urging the wider community to help fight the proposal.

The nine council-run primaries in the area have 107 empty reception places this year out of 465 available desks for children starting school.

There are 20 children at reception at Pooles Park, compared with 32 in 2019.

The council said it means the school is losing money because government funding is per child, and this will affect paying rising staffing costs, maintenance.

However parents said the proposal to close is short sighted as their children are happy there, despite a recent inadequate rating by Ofsted inspectors.

The report was challenged by the school pre-publication but the education standards watchdog said the case is closed.

The Ofsted verdict triggered the Department of Education’s invitation to academy trusts to put in a bid to take over the school.

Some parents said they might welcome this but it would not solve problems with falling numbers of children in reception classes in the borough.

Paul Levy-Adophy said: “It’s like a family, there’s something unique about the school.”

He visited 12 schools before selecting Pooles Park and praised the progress his son with special needs has made there.

He praised the pastoral care it offers and praised the special community garden and its impact on children.

Sophia Iannou from Plant Environment who worsk with the children in the garden said it was an amazing asset.

“Children find peace in the garden.”

She said it helped calm children down and she notices a difference in behaviour compared wih other schools where she works.

Parents said the impact of nature helps children with special needs.

They suggested that because of air pollution in London and the awareness of its impact on children’s health the council could consider moving another school to the site to benefit from the garden.

Education bosses pledged to do everything they can to maintain the garden.

Mr Levy-Adophy said if the Pooles Park children have to move “they are are going to go to a typical concerete jungle.”

After the current pre-consultation stage closes on June 5 the council’s Executive of senior politicians could make a decision in June to start a four-week formal consultation.

If they opt to close the school at their meeting in September could close for the last time in December.

However the Departmrnt for Education is also likely to make a decision over bids from academies – believed to be three – around the same time in June.

Parents said it means they have to wait to see, rather than voting with their feet and looking round at other schools.

Council bosses stressed they would work hard to support families and pupils and friendship groups and year groups might be able to move together.

Executive member for education Michelline Ngongo told a public meeting: “We do not want to close a school. ”

She said she had written to the government asking for more funds for schools but the request was unsuccessful and she was told money was not available.

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