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Former music teacher Marlene Hobsbawm: ‘I always felt good vibes at Carlton School’

Primary school is fighting closure threat

11 March, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

A MUSIC teacher has shared poignant memories of a long-standing primary school, as she joined calls for it to be saved from closure.

Marlene Hobsbawm told the New Journal of her admiration for Terry Seaton, a former headteacher at Carlton School in Grafton Road, who had hired her as part of an aim to widen opportunities for the pupils.

“I think it would be just such a shame if it were to close,” she said. “It is such a lovely building with a beautiful hall and good acoustics. Performance is a great part of a school whether it’s drama, music or assemblies. If there is a nice place, it should not be given up.”

Ms Hobsbawm lived in Nassington Road with her husband historian Eric Hobsbawm when she began teaching music at Carlton. She taught recorder, the only instrument then available at the school, from 1975 to 1989, and held concerts that appeared in the New Journal.

“The children knew Terry was a marvellous man,” she said. “They would write things in their exercise books and one day [in 1980] he came across a girl’s book who wrote ‘I’m hungry.’”

Pupils at the school in the 1950s and, Carlton in the Victorian era

Ms Hobsbawm said that Mr Seaton later appeared with a bag of chips for the child. “I guess he saw their welfare as his own personal responsibility, which I suppose it was in a way,” she said. Ms Hobsbawm wrote in her book Meet Me in Buenos Aires, published last year, that she “felt good vibes” when at Carlton.

“You laugh every day with children at that age,” she said.

The school, which has been part of the community around Queen’s Crescent since 1883, is fighting for its future amid discussions over falling rolls – a problem affecting primary schools across Camden.

The council say a falling birth rate and a lack of family dwellings has been the cause. Up until 1886, the building in Grafton Road housed separate infant and junior schools, but in April 1886 the two schools merged.

Formerly Carlton Road, the road was renamed in the early 1890s but the school kept its original name. Over the years, the grand Victorian school building has modernised with mezzanines, a new front office, the Carlton Community Learning Centre and an outdoor learning classroom. Like many school buildings of the era, it also has a pool for learners, but it has been out of action in recent times.

Carlton School dinner ladies in 1966

Tina Ryan, a Year Six teacher at Carlton, said: “It is not just a school, this building is a fantastic learning resource for the children. I love my history and we incorporate the building in our lessons about the Victorians. Children get a sense of how tall the windows were and can spot features of the era.”

The school was under threat of closure in the 1970s amid similar issues with falling applications and a shortage of affordable family homes. It was saved by a community campaign and what followed was a boom in births in the 1980s and 1990s. And former governors were in discussion 10 years ago about having portable cabins in the playground to create extra space to accommodate for lessons. A decision is to be made about the school’s future on April 1.

Camden’s education chief Labour councillor Angela Mason said: “Camden is experiencing a fall in the number of pupils across the borough, and we are working with our family of schools to look at options for how to make our system sustainable now and in the long term.”

She added: “The council’s cabinet, at its meeting on April 1, will consider proposals for achieving a sustainable system across the borough which will then be subject to extensive consultation, in which everyone can have their views heard, before any decisions are made. The consultation on proposals for our early years services closed on February 12. The findings will be used to assist the council’s cabinet to make a decision on April 1.”

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