CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Action group unveils alternative plan in bid to save primary school from closure

Camden has lined up a merger between Carlton and Rhyl

12 November, 2020 — By Harry Taylor

Carlton Primary School

A PLAN to save a 137-year-old primary school from being closed will be delivered to council chiefs today (Thursday).

An action group is hoping to stop Camden Council’s move to merge Carlton School with nearby Rhyl in the face of falling pupil rolls.

According to their document, Carlton Community: A Vision for Gospel Oak, the school would stay open with a one-form entry.

The New Journal can reveal the alternative plan includes moving Gospel Oak Nursery from Lismore Circus to Carlton’s Victorian building site, and Sure Start services, including a health visitor and parenting advice, being provided there.

A decision on the future of Gospel Oak Nursery has been postponed until next summer with campaigners hoping this means a relocation could be allowed.

The plans have been put together by parents, carers and members of the community.

Carlton Primary School in the Victorian age

The action group, led by carer Sally Kellner, hopes the site would become a “hub” for early years services, adult education and provide a space for parents to meet each other and share advice.

A series of Safety for Young People sessions would also be run in the evenings to educate both parents and children in the community about ways of stopping gang violence.

Camden Council has been running a consultation survey on shutting the school close to Queen’s Crescent since September. Under its plans, it would be replaced with a merged school across both sites.

Camden’s schools chief Councillor Angela Mason is worried about the borough’s birth rate

But Ms Kellner said: “The better alternative is to have two schools independent of each other with one-form entries. The community is like a stool. If you knock out a leg out, it becomes wobbly and falls down. If you knock out Carlton, it will adversely affect the whole area. In our point of view, we don’t see why, if we’ve got the numbers from the nursery and the finances, it can’t work.”

The proposal also includes the council paying for internet for the 25 per cent of the school’s families who don’t have connections, believing that it would come at little cost to the Town Hall.

Ms Kellner said this would aid children’s learning, and give families access to council and health services, which are increasingly provided digitally. The document also urges further cooperation between the school, Kentish Town City Farm, the Von Herkomer Arts project and other organisations in the area.

“They could all learn from each other,” said Ms Kellner. “We believe that this is better for the community and better for our children but I think the council are trying to make something fit that they thought up 10 months ago.”

Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper said the council was treating the public like “children” and that the consultation increasingly looks like a done deal. He said any decision should be halted until full “open book” information on the finances involved has been provided.

“Without the full information, Labour may have already signed Carlton’s death warrant,” he said. “This consultation would just be asking residents what font they want [that] death warrant written in.”

Camden’s education chief Councillor Angela Mason said: “In common with the rest of London, we are facing an unprecedented issue where we have too few children to fill our primary school places. Births in our borough have fallen by almost 20 per cent from 2012. This has become a consistent trend, and without taking action, our primary schools would be at risk of becoming unviable, leading to unplanned closures or further changes that would mean greater uncertainty for families and poorer outcomes for pupils.”

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