Townsend School announced its closure in February earlier this year.

Primary schools in Southwark close as families abandon area

Several primary schools in Southwark have closed over the past year due to a decline of children and families living in the area.

Latest closures include Townsend School in Walworth in July, followed by Cobourg Primary School which merged with Camelot Primary School in Peckham at the end of August.

In a statement on the closure of Townsend School, Southwark Council has said a key factor in these closures was the lack of affordable housing in the area.

The provision of affordable housing in Southwark is a central part of Lib Dem councillor Rachel Bentley’s campaign to become MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, which launched last week.

She said: “I think the schools’ issue is really a canary in the coal mine.

“We have 700 empty spaces in primary schools in Southwark because families or young people don’t feel able to raise a family here. They can’t afford it so they’re moving out. That is not acceptable. Nobody wants to live in a place that’s unequal, it’s not good socially, it’s not good economically.”

CAMPAIGN LAUNCH: Bentley began her campaign last weekend, emphasising that housing would be her top priority as MP.
Bentley has launched her campaign for MP of Bermondsey and Old Southwark, focusing on housing as her top priority.

As MP, she has pledged that more affordable housing will be built in the area, emphasising that housing would be her top priority.

Speaking about her time as a councillor, the Lib Dem candidate said: “Our inboxes are full of stories that are utterly unacceptable.”

In one instance, Bentley said that a family of seven that had contacted her who were all living in a one-bed flat. 

She expressed concern for the children’s education and the parents’ well-being. 

In 2022, Southwark Council implemented its school strategy, Keeping Education Strong, to ensure the quality of teaching remained high for every child despite the low funds available.

The strategy included the consideration of amalgamation and decreasing pupil intake and, if necessary, closure. 

In a report on Townsend School in June, Southwark council attributed increased school closures to Brexit, a national falling birth-rate and the affordability of housing across London.

Jasmine Ali, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for children, education, and refugees, said: “I am incredibly sad about this heart-breaking decision to close Townsend Primary School.

“We hoped that we would find another school for Townsend to amalgamate with, but this did not happen.”

The council has claimed to have spent a lot of time and resources to implement this education strategy.

Despite the closures, Ali said the council has committed to maintaining the buildings for education purposes so that the area can be used for its original purpose, when young people and families return to Southwark.

Other MP candidates’ positions remain unclear ahead of the General Election as no other parties have announced their candidate for the constituency so far. 

South East Londoner has reached out to incumbent Labour MP Neil Coyle for comment.

Credit for featured image: Google Street view

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