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Carlton: Parents make direct plea in council chamber to keep school open

Education chief warns Camden's schools have a 'big, big problem' with falling rolls

24 January, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Noello Bello Castro speaking at Monday’s meeting

THE campaign to save Carlton Primary School intensified this week when parents took a deputation to the Town Hall with a direct appeal to councillors for closure plans to be ruled out.

Camden has opened up the possibility of shutting down the school in Grafton Road, blaming falling rolls – an issue facing schools across the borough. But the council is being urged to run a smaller school on the site and use other parts for rental income.

Addressing Monday’s all-member meeting in the council chamber, parent Noella Bello Castro said: “Most children join the school with attainment well below the national average and finish in line or above – a huge achievement for them and for Carlton. Our school has just eight children who don’t fall into the categories of pupil premium, special education needs or have English as an additional language.”

She added: “One mum told us how a previous school had assumed her daughter had autism and suggested she go to a specialist school. With Carlton’s support, the child was diagnosed with ADHD and dyspraxia. Her confidence has soared.”

Ms Bello Castro was among a group of parents who spoke at the meeting. Funding is strictly based on how many pupils are enrolled, and Carlton is operating at around 60 per cent capacity at its historic Victorian building.

The current round of applications is being looked at by the council.

A decision is expected at a council meeting on April 1.

Ms Bello Castro added: “We urge you to consider that Carlton should function as a one-form-entry school while sharing the building with other local services. This would be an innovative way of tackling the problem of reduced funding for schools, while also improving support for our children and the local community.”

Sally Kellner, a carer for children at Carlton who runs the homework club at Queen’s Crescent Library, said: “The thing about Carlton is that it is the centre of Gospel Oak. Despite all the disadvantages we are able to raise the school standards in a way that has not been possible elsewhere.”

Lib Dem councillor Tom Simon directly asked Camden’s education chief, Labour councillor Angela Mason, to commit to keeping the school.

Cllr Mason, who had visited parents at the school earlier in the day, said: “As you know, we have a big, big problem in Camden about falling school rolls and we have got too many places, not just in Gospel Oak, but across the borough for the number of children we have got. Carlton has been particularly affected by this and has low numbers at the moment.”

She added: “We have an issue and I think we all agreed this morning that things can’t just stay the same and we have to find a new solution. We will work very hard to do that before a decision can be made. We will try hard. We haven’t got a solution yet but we are working on it.”

She added: “I don’t think anybody doubts whatsoever the contribution Carlton School has been making and how much parents really appreciate the education that they’re receiving at the school.”

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