Two primary schools set to merge as pupil numbers drop

Plans for the amalgamation of two primary schools near Elephant & Castle have been published, as inner London boroughs like Southwark struggle with a declining number of school-age children.

Two primary schools set to merge as pupil numbers drop
St Jude's, in the foreground, is a short distance from Charlotte Sharman School, visible in the background on the opposite side of St George's Road

Just before Christmas parents of children at St Jude's Primary School on Colnbrook Street SE1 and Charlotte Sharman Primary School in West Square SE11 received letters informing them of a proposal to combine the schools from September 2024.

The letters - with identical text - were signed by Charlotte Sharman chair of governors Maureen Gabiddon and St Jude's chair of governors Siobhan Aarons.

The combined school would have one form of entry (ie 30 pupils per school year) and be based on the Charlotte Sharman site - but would inherit St Jude's status as a Church of England school supported by the Diocese of Southwark.

According to the letter, "the governing bodies have numerous reasons why they think this is a positive way forward for both schools given the current lack of primary age pupils in Southwark" and "on a day-to-day basis, very little will change and the differing needs of each child will continue to be met".

The formal six week consultation period on the proposed amalgamation runs until Monday 29 January.

The merger is also on the agenda of Southwark Council's Education and Local Economy Scrutiny Commission next week, with teachers from Charlotte Sharman due to address councillors.

The effective closure of the St Jude's site means that three primary schools in close proximity to the Elephant & Castle will have closed in a three-year period.

St John's Primary School in Larcom Street SE17 closed in summer 2021, whilst Townsend Primary School near the Bricklayers Arms shut in July 2023.

Schools around the Elephant & Castle have struggled to fill their classes since the redevelopment of the Heygate Estate and the closure of the shopping centre. The head of Victory Primary School spoke frankly about these challenges at a council scrutiny commission meeting in 2022:

Nearby Grange Primary School - off Tower Bridge Road - is also subject to a consultation on plans to halve its annual intake of pupils from 60 to 30.

Tags: Education, Southwark, Politics & local government, Elephant & Castle

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