CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

High housing costs and falling birth rate leads to falling rolls at Camden’s schools

Pupil shortage could have affect on funding for primaries

30 March, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Education chief Angela Mason

HIGH housing costs, a falling birth rate and a trend for properties being left empty or used for holiday lets have been identified as key factors in falling pupil numbers across Camden’s primary schools.

New research shows that the borough’s primaries have been hit by falling rolls since 2013, which in turn risks triggering a knock-on effect on how much funding from central government they receive.

Now a new body made up of headteachers, governors and council officers are meeting regularly to discuss how to counter the trend. The New Journal has learned they met a fortnight ago to consider strategies and hear how research has found a multiplicity of reasons for this drop. They range from the rise of family homes in the borough being switched by property owners into Airbnb-style short-let rentals to the growing population of childless young professionals choosing the area for their home.

Camden’s school budget is around £129m a year, and could be reduced by around 10 per cent if the current downward tick continues.
Schools chief Councillor Angela Mason said: “Above all, we do not want to see any schools close – that would be very premature as the situation is volatile.”

But she said there was a need for headteachers, governors and parents to spread the word about the advantages of Camden’s council-run primaries, insisting the quality on offer meant there was no need for families to choose private options.

She said: “There is no question there has been a fall in the birth rate and the fertility in the borough. Camden women are having fewer kids and we are trying to find out why.”

In the north east of the borough, pressure on housing due to rising costs is considered a factor.

Cllr Mason said: “We are looking at solving this issue collectively. This could, for example, meaning capping a school at one form entry so you don’t pay for two form teachers for a time. If you have two forms but there are not enough pupils it can be expensive. We do not know how long this may go on for.”

She added: “We can look at sharing resources, such as headteachers across two schools, or teachers with specialisms working across sites.:

A Camden Council spokesperson said the council’s experience was similar to other London boroughs.

A press official said: “Schools will work together to ensure the high quality and standards of teaching, learning and achievement for which Camden primary schools are known will be maintained throughout this period.”

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