The local authority has a statutory duty to ensure all pupils have access to a high quality school place, but falling school rolls and budget pressures could affect the sustainability of schools and their ability to maintain high standards.
Tower Hamlets has experienced a great deal of demographic change in recent years which has meant that primary school rolls have not grown as quickly as the population. Young families are increasingly moving out of the borough and birth rates are falling. This has resulted in a surplus of primary school places overall. In 2017/18, one in ten of the borough’s Reception places went unfilled.
However, there is a stark contrast between the situation in the West and the East of the borough. Whilst areas in the West have seen falls in the demand for primary school places, areas in the East have seen increases. Projections indicate that this situation will worsen over the coming decade.
At the same time, schools are experiencing pressure on their budgets because of changes to the National Funding Formula. This worsens when schools have unfilled places and schools with high levels of surplus face significant financial challenges.
The local authority is therefore undertaking a review of primary school places to maximise the potential of the borough’s high-quality primary schools and to ensure that:
- schools are able to maintain and improve the quality of education
- all children have access to the right school place at the right time
- parents in all areas of the borough continue to be offered a choice of provision
- schools are working together in collaboration, not competition and
- public resources are used efficiently and effectively.