Carlton School: Parents warned another primary school could face closure
Falling school rolls blamed for funding cuts
11 November, 2019 — By Helen Chapman
STAFF and governors are a holding meetings with parents today (Monday) to discuss ways to keep a primary school open amid Camden’s falling rolls.
The possible closure of Carlton School in Kentish Town, rated ‘good’ by inspectors, is one option being discussed at the Town Hall.
Headteacher Jacqueline Phelan told the New Journal: “The governing body and staff are currently formulating proposals that we look forward to sharing with Camden. There is nothing formal on the table. A decision has not been made to close the school.”
Peter Ptashko, the vice-chair of governors at the school in Grafton Road, said: “The staff, the governors and the local councillors are all supportive of Carlton and want it to stay. We are a strongly inclusive school at the heart of the local community.”
Carlton School is under threat of closure and is in discussion with the council about ways to keep it running.
The school in Grafton Road is said to have had talks with senior council officers about falling school enrolments – an issue affected schools across the borough.
The school, which is at around 60 per cent capacity, are looking into ways to stay open by renting out spare classrooms.
Jacqueline Phelan, headteacher, said: “The governing body and staff are currently formulating proposals that we are looking forward to sharing with Camden.We are forumulating a proposal about how the building can be used to ensure its viability.
Peter Ptashko, Vice Chair of Governors, said: “The staff, the governors and the local councillors are all supportive that Carlton School must stay open. We are a strongly inclusive school at the heart of the local community.”
The school is currently at 60 percent capacity, which affects how much funding it gets from government. One way forward could be to rent out parts of the building, although its leaders insist it would not allow anything that affected pupils’ education.
The meetings for parents today (Monday) were due to clarify the situation amid rumours in Queen’s Crescent. There is hope that parents, many of whom went to the school themselves as children, will swing behind the school’s attempts to find a solution. If needs be, a community campaign is likely to be formed to challenge any further move towards closure.
While one school in Camden has already closed, St Aloysius in Somers Town, due to a shortage of places, planners are set to permit the Abacus School to move into the former Hampstead police station at a meeting this week.
The council has partly blamed a falling birth rate for dwindling pupil numbers but there has also been a focus on the cost and availability of housing and the lack of family-sized homes.
According to council figures Carlton lost more than £100,000 in funding for 2018-19. Funding figures are directly connected to pupil numbers. Argyle, Brecknock, Rhyl and St Dominic’s primary schools have also been hit with losses of the same amount although there is no suggestion that any of them are at risk of closure.
Camden’s education chief Councillor Angela Mason said:”I have spoken to the CNJ previously about how deeply worried I am about the fall in school numbers and he impact this is having on our great schools. This has been caused overwhelmingly by the very high costs of housing in Camden that have escalated under this government and the completely unregulated use of AirBnBs. Many working families simply cannot afford to live in Camden.”
She added: “Last summer all our primary schools asked us to try and find a sustainable plan for the future of our schools. Government funding does not recognise the role of our schools as community assets and funding is just on a per pupil basis. All our primary schools are ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ and it is tragic that some may just not have the money to keep going.”
Cllr Mason said that she recognised “how important the school has been for a long time in Gospel Oak”, adding: “Along with my fellow councillors I want to see that the school and the community have ample time to look at the future of the school and I have already agreed it is important to share all the information we have to give everybody enough time to look at alternative solutions.”
A Camden Council spokesman 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. This September the number of reception children admitted to Camden schools was down 9% – 145 pupils – compared with the 2015 intake. This means that across Camden we now have around 15% more primary school places than we need. In some schools the surplus is as much as 40%. Our funding is based on how many places we fill, so we need to manage our school estate with this in mind.
He added: “We will consult with parents, governors and interested parties on any proposals that come out of these discussions. No decisions have been made yet but we want all parents and children in Camden to know that they will always have a place at a fantastic Camden primary school in their own community.”