A Brent resident has written to Brent Council raising issues over the impact of an Islamia Primary School move from Queens Park to Preston ward.
It's important to recognise the negative impacts the proposed move will have on the other nearby schools. The School Cuts site (schoolcuts.org.uk) illustrates the financially difficult position they are already facing next year, notwithstanding any previous or current budget deficits:
- Byron Court Primary face £134k cut in 2023-24, equivalent loss of £180 per pupil
- East Lane Primary face £181k cut, loss of £289 per pupil
- Preston Park Primary face £61k cut, loss of £117 per pupil
- Wembley Primary face £121k cut, loss of £148 per pupil
- Mount Stewart Infant face £71k cut, loss of £281 per pupil
- Mount Stewart Junior face £60k cut, loss of £192 per pupil
- Sudbury Primary face £152k cut, loss of £185 per pupil
Moving Islamia Primary into an area with a high density of primaries may solve one problem but will create many more for the other schools, who will lose families wanting to attend Islamia as a faith school, exacerbating their financial problems and inevitably lead to cuts in activities and staff redundancies - a very slippery slope that is difficult to recover from.
A very real example of this was the closure of Roe Green Strathcona Primary (a local authority school) on the exact same site. The public consultation in 2019 found 541 respondents in favour of keeping the school open whilst just a single respondent disagreed. Previously the then Lead Member for Young People and Schools, Cllr Amer Agha cited a drop in demand and excess places to justify the closure. Our local authority schools are already under immense pressure, and these proposals could very well over time lead to more closures.
It’s vital that these proposals fit into the Council's School Place Planning Strategy 2019-23, https://legacy.brent.gov.uk/media/16419833/school-place-planning-strategy-2019-23-refresh-nov-21.pdf yet it doesn't appear that they do:
- South Kilburn - very close to Islamia's current location - is cited as an existing growth area for housing (page 6) with many developments already completed or in the pipeline. In contrast, Northwick Park is still many years away from that
- the Council's duty to provide a 'reasonable offer' within 2 miles of home for children under 8 (page 9) clearly doesn't work for existing families if the school moves 6 miles away from the current site
- strategy document recognises the difficulties spare places can cause schools (page 11). The operating principles (page 12) offers support to schools re changing demand and sustainability, minimising disruption to provision, and use planning areas for primary places. Yet none of this seems to have been undertaken in light of the proposals, especially since I know that Byron Court Primary and possibly other schools have not been consulted themselves or offered support
- the Planning Areas (pages 22-27) illustrate the capacity and projection in each area. Moving Islamia out of Planning Area 5 will reduce the capacity from 1252 to 830; based on a reasonable assumption that 20% of children will not move with the school and instead find another school place in the same area (80 children), this would reduce the surplus Reception places in 23/24 from 209 to 129. In contrast, the capacity in Planning Area 2 will increase from 750 to 1172; bringing the remaining 80% into the area (342 children) will lift the projected Reception intake to 928 but increase the overall surplus from 164 to 244. That surplus would not be evenly distributed if the 20% spare places in Islamia are quickly taken, as expected, by families with children in existing local schools
Finally, the report and subsequent decision to award a contract for technical consultancy for the Strathcona site development on 1 Nov makes absolutely no mention of the current public consultation or the award being contingent on the move being confirmed. This clearly implies that consultation is merely a tick-box exercise with a pre-determined decision already made to move the school.