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London schools under threat from cost of living: councils

By AFP

January 29, 2024 07:05 PM


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Schools could be mothballed in London because of falling pupil numbers caused by high living costs, an exodus of families after Brexit and a declining birth rate, a new report warned on Monday.

Some 8,000 fewer children are predicted to require places over the next four years, creating significant budget shortfalls for schools across the capital, the London Councils group said.

"There are a number of localised factors which have led to families moving away from London, including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the increase in the cost of living, the UK's exit from the European Union and the lack of affordable housing available in London," the report states.

"These factors are continuing to be significant in determining where families choose to live, particularly in central London."

A 17 percent fall in the birth rate in the city -- 23,225 live births -- between 2012 and 2021 is another main reason for the decrease in demand for school places, said the group, which represents the 32 councils covering Greater London.

As more people choose not to raise a family in the capital, the birth rate in London has decreased, the report says, warning that the situation is unlikely to change.

In some cases, the decline will worsen, leading to more reductions in pupil numbers in schools and "potential school closures", the report warns.

Schools, which are funded by government according to the number of pupils, will have to make "difficult decisions" to balance their budgets, the councils warn.

This could include cutting teachers, narrowing the curriculum or offering fewer extracurricular opportunities.

"The drop in the child population is creating challenges for schools, many of whom are already in deficit, and face further budgetary reductions due to fewer pupils on their school roll," the report says.

"There is an imminent risk that falling rolls and stretched budgets will lead to a drop in standards which will impact children's long-term educational attainment."

Falling numbers of pupils have already seen several schools shut their doors.

The Guardian newspaper reported last year that an "urban exodus" of young families because of rising housing and childcare costs had created a similar situation in towns and cities across England.


AFP


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