Lambeth: Launching consultation on falling pupil numbers 

16 May 2024

Written by: Lambeth Council

News and announcements

Lambeth Council is consulting residents and school communities on potential options to address the impacts of falling primary school pupil numbers and the huge challenges this creates for the borough.   

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Lambeth: Launching consultation on falling pupil numbers 

People leaving the capital due to Brexit, the cost of living crisis and a one-third drop in birth rates, means less children are starting school in Lambeth each year. Coupled with an unfair funding system, schools across London are struggling.  

The council has been engaging with schools on how to manage this challenge, principally focusing on further reductions in Published Admission Numbers (PANs), but also potential amalgamations, and possible closures. 

The council has been working positively in partnership with schools over several years to reduce admission numbers in a fair and equal way that protects the quality of education in the borough. The last round of reductions were adopted in December.  This partnership approach has seen 975 places removed from schools across Lambeth – from 3,650 to 2,675 – between 2016 and 2025.     

However, as of January, there are more than 539 vacant places in reception classes, almost 20 per cent of the total available or equivalent to roughly 18 classes of 30 children. With not all schools having reduced their admission numbers, coupled with the demographic situation not improving, this means continuing to reduce admission numbers alone will not be enough to tackle the scale of the issue and further, more significant interventions will have to be considered.   

With this ongoing and worsening situation putting real strain on school budgets, the need to consider potential amalgamations and closures is now being discussed with our communities.

Lambeth Council is launching a consultation with the public to discuss how to best manage these impacts and to get local people to share their views on how we can protect our high-quality education now and into the future on behalf of our children. 

Councillor Ben Kind, Cabinet member for Children and Families said: “We’ve been working hard in partnership with our schools to find solutions to this serious situation that uphold Lambeth’s high education standards while safeguarding excellent education provision for the future. 

“These are difficult conversations and there will be tough decisions in the months ahead – but we cannot ignore the reality of the challenge. Let me be clear: this is not a reflection on the dedication of Lambeth’s school staff or the quality of teaching – rather it is declining pupil numbers over an extended period which are negatively impacting the sustainability of individual schools and Lambeth’s broader school system. 

“The Government changed the way schools are funded so they receive funding on a per pupil basis rather than need, which can leave them with even greater financial pressures when faced with falling pupil numbers. Lambeth Council has urged the Government to act more decisively to assist schools facing falling pupil numbers or facing financial difficulty – but their limited support is too little and comes too late. 

“Leaving schools underfilled simply exacerbates the financial pressures they face, especially those in the capital, where costs are higher. Our commitment is to collaborate with schools, teachers, staff, and parents to tackle this challenge cohesively, protect our schools as much as possible, maintain excellent education provision, and ensure a diverse range of school types that balances community and faith schools.” 

The consultation launches today and will be open for a minimum period of eight weeks. Following the results from the consultation, a formal proposal will be presented to Cabinet in the Autumn Term.