Parents deliver clear message to the Town Hall: Carlton Primary School must stay OPEN
Crunch talks continue about the future of Camden’s primaries amid falling applications
06 December, 2019 — By Helen Chapman
Former pupil Kash Faruque with his son
Parents have given tearful testimony in praise of Carlton School, the primary which has been told that closure is a possible option amid Camden’s school places crisis.
They met at Carlton Primary to discuss their concerns for the future. Parents and carers have launched a petition calling for it to stay open which so far has over 1,400 signatures.
The New Journal revealed last month how Camden was in talks with the school in Grafton Road due to a borough wide lack of applications to its primary schools.
Critically, school funding formula is strictly based on how many pupils are enrolled. Carlton is operating at around 60 per cent capacity at its historic Victorian building.
Closure is not a done deal, however, and one possible way of staying open is to use parts of the site for rental income.
Kash Faruque is a parent at Carlton who attended the school as a child.
He said: “The head, Jacquie Phelan, was my teacher in year five and year six and spent time helping me understand and deal with being dyslexic. She taught me to use my creativity and embrace the good qualities I have.
“I still call her Ms Phelan and she says ‘you can call me Jacquie now’. Every year we still have a reunion with friends in our year. I learnt a lot there.”
Mr Faruque has a five year old son at the school on the autism spectrum. 30 per cent of the school are on the SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) register.
He said: “Children create a bond with someone helping them. If children move on to another school they might meet someone just as qualified but success comes with the connections they create. To have that taken away means part of their identity is taken away.”
Schools across Camden have been affected by dwindling pupil numbers. The falling rolls are blamed on the lack of family-sized homes and warnings that too much accommodation in Camden is being used for Airbnb-style lets rather than settled, long-term rents.
Applications for parents choosing primary school places for children close in January and Carlton is looking to boost its intake with new applications.
An open day for prospective parents will be held on December 12 from 9.30-11am.
Some parents at Carlton say even those who did not put it down as their first choice – due to others being at a closer walking distance – “fell in love” once they join its community.
Parent Shoda Rackal, said: “Once here, you are here for life. The school had a newly landscaped garden two years ago and now have a sensory garden and even palm trees. That means so much for children who might not have a garden at home.”
Shoda Rackal, Sally Kellner and Stacey Bowler[/caption]
Stacey Bowler, another parent at Carlton, said: “My child fitted in the school like a glove. The staff made her feel so welcome. The transition and the care is so good. Jacquie addresses the children in such a lovely way.”
Dismayed by the threat of closure, she added: “It feels like we spend all our time fighting simply to stand still. It hurts.”
Abdelfatah Shirwa, who arrived in England from Somalia six years ago, said: “The school gives us a lot of opportunity as foreign parents. They offer free English lessons which I have had.”
The school’s lollipop man Abdi Warsame[/caption]
Meanwhile, Abdi Warsame, who has worked as a lollipop man outside the school for three years, said: “It is very sad and disappointing. We want the council to stop it from happening.”
Over half of the pupils are on free school meals.
Sally Kellner, a carer, said: “Children need stability and nurturing from a school to survive. That upheaval would disrupt that support from teachers.”
A Camden Council spokesman said “no decisions have been made yet”, adding: “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.
“This September the number of reception children admitted to Camden schools was down 9 per cent – 145 pupils – compared with the 2015 intake. This means that across Camden we now have around 15 per cent more primary school places than we need. Our funding is based on how many places we fill, so we need to manage our school estate with this in mind.
“We have a duty to work with headteachers and chairs of governors to ensure that our schools are viable, financially secure and successful going into the future. “We will consult with parents, governors and interested parties on any proposals that come out of these discussions.”