New schools in London: housing developers are building new schools on site to cope with London’s growing pupil population


London’s school system puts pressure on parents long before their children sit exams or navigate the complexities of the playground.

With population growth, the trend of urbanisation and a prolonged era of public sector cuts, parents are finding it increasingly tough to land a place for their children at their preferred schools.

This spring, a record 33,000 children missed out on their first choice of secondary school in London, according to a recent study by the public sector efficiency organisation, Scape Group.

Over the next two years, the capital will get an extra 63,699 primary and secondary school children, a 6.6 per cent rise on today. This equates to 7,550 additional primary school places and 59,149 secondary school places yet to be created.

Demand: London will need 59,000 extra secondary school places in two years’ time (Getty Images)

But the regenerating outer boroughs, where thousands of new homes are being built, have the starkest imbalance of pupil-to-place ratios and desperately need new schools.

“Despite the ex-Chancellor George Osborne ring-fencing money for schools, funding for the [UK] education sector declined by 4.6 per cent between 2015 and 2020,” the report reads.

Planning expert Guy Kaddish, of property consultancy Bidwells, says: “Against the backdrop of Brexit, cuts have slipped down the news agenda but we are still living in an era of austerity. We are not seeing the investment we were used to into schools.”

London boroughs in most need of new schools

The availability of school places varies widely by borough. Havering will see the biggest pupil growth over the next two years at 11.3 per cent, which equates to an extra 4,564 children who need educating and 15 more schools.

The population of schoolchildren in Barking & Dagenham is set to rise by 11.1 per cent in the same period. The borough will need 4,943 extra places, or another 11 schools, by the 2021/22 school year.

Greenwich, Newham and Redbridge make up the rest of the five boroughs in greatest need. At the other end of the spectrum, Kensington & Chelsea and Islington don’t need any more schools and Haringey, Merton and Lambeth only need one each to cope with population growth.

London property developers build new schools

Schools minister Lord Agnew published guidance last month to help local authorities negotiate more funding from developers for new schools and school expansions.

However, the phenomenon of new schools delivered by the housebuilder is rapidly becoming more commonplace. Bidwells’ Guy Kaddish says the rough rule is that 400 new homes equate to one single-form entry primary school — with 30 children per class.

“The tie-up between education and new development is a positive thing,” says Kaddish. “But it’s complex.”

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Eco-build: the Mulberry Academy London Dock secondary school will serve families at London Dock in Wapping

A consortium of Tower Hamlets council, Mulberry Schools Trust, the Department of Education and Berkeley Homes’ St George is building a new secondary school as part of the London Dock development in Wapping.

The Mulberry Academy London Dock will open in 2022 but must be built to Passivhaus standards. This means it has to be highly energy efficient with guaranteed levels of clean, fresh air to protect pupils and teachers from pollution in central London.

The Silk District in nearby Whitechapel E1 has 564 new homes, a quarter for shared ownership, including family-sized, three-bedroom flats priced from £825,000. Call Mount Anvil on 020 3930 4287.

New schools near London’s new homes

According to new data from online estate agent Yopa, a third of Londoners polled say schools are a top priority when moving house.

With shrinking catchment areas for schools rated “outstanding” or “good” by the Ofsted government education watchdog, buying in a new development with a new school on the doorstep could be the smartest move.

When it completes, massive 443-acre Barking Riverside will deliver 11,000 new homes to the borough and seven new schools.

Four of the schools are already open, including Riverside Campus. It’s a free, non-selective school which will cater for 2,600 pupils from ages five to 11 and has a special needs unit.

Family-sized homes are available in L&Q’s Parklands Riverside, part of Barking Riverside. Three-bedroom flats start at £359,950 and four-bedroom townhouses from £525,000 with Help to Buy.

Three-bedroom shared-ownership homes are also for sale, from £90,000 for a 25 per cent share

Royal Wharf is a 3,385-home district being built by Ballymore & Oxley as part of the £3.5 billion regeneration of the Royal Docks, east of London City airport.

The developer has paid £3.5 million to Newham council to go some way to addressing the borough’s shortage of school places but is also building a new primary school. It will educate 450 children, with a nursery on site, too. Three-bedroom homes start from £695,000.

Colindale Gardens, in Edgware, is a £1 billion regeneration scheme by Redrow. The 49-acre brownfield site will become a 2,900-home district with a new primary school, sports pitches and cycle paths.

Studios, one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom homes are available, with prices from £385,000 to £750,000. Call 020 3131 5046.

Upgrading London’s schools

“The majority of investment at the moment goes into upgrading existing schools, improving play areas, adding classrooms and making sports halls bigger,” says Kaddish.

The 290 homes at Battersea Exchange are being built around St Mary’s Roman Catholic Primary School which has now been upgraded into a new school building with a rooftop games pitch. St Mary’s was also expanded from a one- to two-form entry.

There are three-bedroom flats on sale for £1.09 million. Call 020 3918 7789 for details.

The Makers, across town in Shoreditch, is a new 29-storey residential block which will include three-bedroom flats and family duplexes. Prices have yet to be released.

It sits next to New Regent’s College for pupils aged between five and 16 with a new multi-use games area, sports hall and dance studio. For further information, call Cushman & Wakefield on 020 3296 2222.

Wyvil Primary, an “outstanding” school, has been educating Vauxhall’s children since 1876 in South Lambeth Road.

Developers Mount Anvil and Fabrica are expanding the school, which sits next to their Keybridge scheme where two- and three-bedroom flats are available, starting at £907,500. Email sales@keybridgelondon.com or call 020 3930 4718.

Living in Greenwich Peninsula: ‘We’ve 17 schools on our doorstep’

Using shared ownership, Rosella Saxon and her husband Marty, 36, upsized from a two-bedroom flat to a three-bedroom semi-detached house to accommodate their growing family and managed to stay in Charlton, south-east London. 

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So many schools on the doorstep: Rosella Saxon and her husband Marty, with sons Theo, four, and Jakob, five months, live in Charlton

The couple bought a 25 per cent share in their flat through L&Q for £62,500.

Six years later, thanks to the growth in values, they are buying their semi outright for £470,000.

The house is in the catchment area for 17 different primary and secondary schools, including the new St Mary Magdalene all-through school being built as part of Greenwich Peninsula regeneration. “I think we’ll be here till retirement,” says Rosella, 36.

“We’ve a huge garage that we can potentially convert later on, and a private garden that the children love to play in — and so many schools are on the doorstep.”

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