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It’s official: Council WILL shut down Carlton Primary School

Campaigners say consultation was flawed and figures are being kept under wraps

17 December, 2020 — By Harry Taylor

Campaigners tried to convince the council to delay a decision on the primary school

CARLTON Primary School will close next year, after a vote by Camden Council’s cabinet last night (Wednesday), despite pressure from hundreds of parents to keep it open.

All nine members of the cabinet at the meeting voted in favour of merging the school in Grafton Road with nearby Rhyl Primary School.

This comes a week after more than 110 parents voted to save the school in an unofficial ballot, and a similar number signed a petition in Kentish Town last weekend.

Meanwhile parents were stopped from addressing a finance scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, amid continued rebuffed attempts to find out how much the closure will cost, despite a promise of an “open book”.

Speaking to cabinet’s virtual meeting, the borough’s education chief Labour councillors Angela Mason reiterated that falling school numbers and a low fertility rate in Camden lay behind the decision.

Both schools have large numbers of vacant places. She said that the alternative proposal of keeping Carlton open as a one-form entry, separate school, was not possible.

“Although one-form entry schools can be viable, the evidence of recent admissions and future forecasts don’t suggest it could be a one-form entry school,” she said. “The Carlton school building is really large, more than twice the capacity needed for a one-form entry school. The proposal to merge the school is very much concerned with ensuring that children can be educated on site for as long as possible, to maximise the possibility of retaining staff and ease pupils’ transfer.”

Cllr Mason later said that Carlton could be the “canary in the mine” of school places, and that future schools could be forced to shut, merge or pool resources.

Carlton Primary School will cease as a legal entity in a merger with Rhyl

Cllr Mason added that the proposal is supported by both schools’ headteachers and their governing bodies.

Jessica Wren, head of the Carlton board of governors said: “Closing Carlton as a legal entity is one that many people feel passionately about. Based on the current and projected numbers, we realise our structure and provision will not be sustainable. Especially if the closure is delayed. This will impact on the quality of education for our pupils.”

Carlton action group member Shoda Rackal, who has a son at the school, had claimed that the consultation survey was “racist” because 70 per cent of Carlton pupils come from a Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background, but only two BAME parents responded to the consultation.

She said: “The consultation process was deeply flawed, and we’ve been raising this since it started. We are in a constant state of anxiety and struggling to support our children’s education. “To suggest an upheaval of changing school and splitting up siblings puts further strain on mothers in particular because of a shorter school day and longer pick-up time.”

Nearly 70 per cent of responses to the consultation were from people from a white background. A nearby mosque criticised the attempts to engage with its community.

Unison branch rep Hugo Pierre told the meeting that assurances for staff still hadn’t been given, only that if vacancies were created at Rhyl as a result of the merger, Carlton staff would be guaranteed an interview.

In both the cabinet meeting and Camden’s education scrutiny committee meeting, both Cllr Mason and Camden’s education director Richard Lewin didn’t give costings that had been promised to parents in a cabinet meeting in early September. Cllr Mason also rebuffed attempts from some fellow Labour councillors on Monday to find out the figures. In an email to colleagues she said it was “difficult at the moment to give precise calculations on redundancy”.

Conservative group leader Cllr Oliver Cooper said: “The decision to close Carlton is a false economy and will cost Camden more money than it saves. Camden now says it will close more schools in future, and wherever the schools are that Camden are plotting to close, residents need to be listened to, not bulldozed.” Camden will publish a legal notice, signalling its intention to close the school.

A second consultation will take place in January and February.

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