End of an era

Staff and pupils say goodbye to Stamford Hill Primary School

Stamford Hill Primary School, Berkeley Road, N15
Credit: Stephen Furner

By Luchia Robinson

Stamford Hill Primary School in Berkeley Road, N15 has now permanently closed following a decline in student numbers over the years.

The final decision to close the school and amalgamate it with nearby Tiverton Primary School in Pulford Road, N15, was made by Haringey Council’s cabinet in February this year, following a lengthy consultation process, and a conclusive four-week representation period.

The one-form primary school, which was founded in 1882 had become financially unviable, with projections suggesting that there would continue to be low numbers of student enrolments in the years ahead.

Andrew Bethell, chair of governors at Stamford Hill Primary School said: “We are in the situation where Stamford Hill Primary School is right opposite Tiverton Primary School, and there frankly isn’t enough children to fill both schools.

“We accepted the decision from the local authority, that a sensible thing was to amalgamate the two schools, and that essentially meant that the old Stamford Hill Primary School that had been going for almost 140 years, had to close down.

“Although we are sad, and there will be lots of people who have attended the school, and have taught at the school who will also be sad, it was an inevitability given the demographic changes in the area.”

Whereas London has experienced a greater increase in the total number of pupils compared to all other regions across the country, the total number of pupils at primary school level has declined in recent years.

This increase in surplus primary school places has partly been attributed to the declining birth rates across the capital – a decrease of 10% between 2012/13 and 2018/19.

School amalgamations have become increasingly commonplace as local authorities seek to maintain the capacity and financial stability of affected schools such as Stamford Hill Primary, which will see its current pupils starting at Tiverton in September, for the start of the new term.

Andrew said: We’ve always had a very good relationship with Tiverton, and obviously there was a moment when we first had to announce this, that parents were upset and concerned, because they had had great fondness for [Stamford Hill Primary] school.

“However, we went through a very detailed and elaborate consultation process, and by the time they were well reassured, we introduced them to Tiverton – many of them knew Tiverton and were very happy in the end.

“It’s a complicated process and it takes time for people to get used to the idea, but actually has been remarkably smooth.”

The outbreak of coronavirus prevented the staff and pupils at Stamford Hill Primary School from having the closing celebration they would have wanted. However, the year 6 pupils undertook a special history project, compiling logbook entries and photographs of the school, which have been made into video clips, to preserve fond memories.

Year 6 pupil, Mercy Ikwueze-Okolo says she is well prepared for her new venture at secondary school, and that the teachers at Stamford Hill will be what she’ll miss most.

She said: “The school has been an amazing place for children to learn, grow and experience, and just thrive in their lives.”

The school will also be greatly missed by acting headteacher, Rehana Ali, who began her career at Stamford Hill as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher). She said: “This has been the toughest year, knowing that it’s the end of Stamford Hill. Goodbyes are always hard but it’s harder because of this [pandemic] that we’re in now.

“My memories of Stamford Hill are just of the children and the families that I’ve been working with – I’m going to miss them.

“On the whole the majority of the children are joining Tiverton which is good, because they’ll be able to see their friends. There’s still that community, it just won’t be at Stamford Hill, and that’s a sad thing – but children are resilient and I am confident that they will pick up, and they will get on [well] with it.

“Stamford Hill has been a real big part of my life, and it always will be.”

To see the Discovering the History of Stamford Hill School video: vimeo.com/439892479

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