One in five of England’s schools are expected to experience disruption or closure today as the country goes to the polls for the snap general election.
Research by Schools Week has found that 22.6 per cent of schools are due to be used as polling stations, with hundreds having to close completely to help the voting process.
For many schools, it is the second time in just over a month they have been disrupted by an election. Large numbers of schools were also used as polling stations for council and mayoral elections on May 4.
Of the 7,894 schools in the 75 areas whose councils provided data, 1,784 are due to be used as polling stations today. Of those, 189 face definite closure, but a lack of data on planned closures means the actual number is likely to be much higher. Heads decide whether their school should close, and they don’t have to tell their local authority if they do.
We try to avoid using schools as polling stations, where possible, to avoid disruption
This represents a slight increase on 2015, when Schools Week found that one in six schools shut their doors on polling day.
The research also revealed that although many councils are attempting to phase out the use of schools as polling stations, they have been largely unable to do so in time for this election.
In the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, 17 of the area’s 32 schools are due to be used as polling stations.
A spokesperson for the borough said it was “up to the individual schools whether they close for the day or remain open”, and explained that some had separate entrances which enabled them to remain open.
In Nottingham, just one of the city’s 89 schools will close to be used as a polling station today. Two were used in 2015.
The council says it has sought in recent years to “reduce or remove the use of schools as polling stations so that pupils do not have their education disrupted”.
In Hackney in east London, 14 of the borough’s 73 schools will be used as polling stations, and of those, eight will be closed.
Tim Shields, the area’s returning officer, said Hackney tried to avoid using schools where possible and did not require them to close where they were closed.
“We offer to provide schools with fencing and any other equipment that could allow them to stay open.”
Shields added that, before the snap election was called, the council had been in the process of reviewing its polling stations “with a view to finding suitable alternatives to schools”, but had been unable to do so in time for this election.
In East Sussex, just one of the county’s 181 schools will close.
“We try to avoid using schools as polling stations, where possible, to avoid disruption,” a spokesperson said.
The London borough of Sutton also says it is “attempting to move away from using schools”. It was due to use 15 of its 55 schools this year, and close three, but hopes that number will decrease in future years.