CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Property guardians start boarding up primary school set for closure

St Aloysius is the first primary school in Camden's history to close

25 July, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Chairs and equipment were carted out of St Aloysius this week

PROPERTY guardians have moved into part of a primary school after its closure was officially confirmed on Thursday.

Education chief Councillor Angela Mason approved the Diocese of Westminster’s decision to close St Aloysius in Somers Town – the first time a mainstream primary school has ever been shut down in Camden.

As revealed by the New Journal in March, the school says it does not have enough pupils to continue and will be fully closed by Christmas.

This week the lower site of St Aloysius, in Phoenix Road, was being boarded-up by security teams after children finished the summer term on Friday.

Chairs and desks were carted out in vans this week while notices have been pinned up on the wall of the building.

Its upper site, in nearby Aldenham Street, is being kept open temporarily during the autumn term for around 65 pupils who have not yet found alternative school places.

They will be taught in three mixed-age classes by three teachers until December 31 when the whole school will shut completely. Parents had been told that all pupils would be able to continue a Catholic education at Our Lady’s, in Pratt Street, Camden Town.

But that school is now full-up and the New Journal understands it is considering taking over the running of the Aldenham Street site after St Aloysius closes.

A teaching source at St Aloysius said: “Parents whose children are supposed to be going to Our Lady’s have been told that Our Lady’s will be taking the upper site building at St Aloysius – and children will be taught there. So it will just be renamed, really. [It’s] bizarre.”

St Aloysius had around 230 places filled out of 460 when a consultation on its potential closure was launched in April.

Parents were told at a meeting at the school “not to hang around” in finding alternative school places, sparking an exodus of more than 200 children over the last three months.

The Diocese of Westminster maintains that St Alo’s, as it is known locally, is unsustainable because of low pupil numbers and old buildings that will cost “millions of pounds to refurbish”.

Cllr Mason’s approval of the decision came at a special single member meeting on Thursday.

The Diocese of Westminster – which also runs Our Lady’s – told the meeting that there “there are not sufficient numbers of school-age children in the local area to justify keeping the school open”.

In a deputation to the council on Thursday, Esther Leslie, who lives in Crowndale Court, Somers Town, said: “The loss of a school mars a community, makes it feel its future has been mortgaged. Insecurity breeds misery. “We are told that the population of Somers Town is set to grow by around 47.4 per cent in the next decade. Unless those coming are solely the private school types, it makes no sense.”

Somers Town ward councillor Paul Tomlinson has also criticised the decision and joined trade union Unison in opposing the closure.

In a statement, Cllr Mason said: “Real efforts have been made to save the school but sadly a number of factors, particularly a fall in school enrolments, made it financially unviable. Only 15 parents applied for the 60 places available for last September and the school was facing a potential £2 million budget deficit if it had stayed open”

She added: “Thank you to all the teachers at the school, the governors, and the diocese, for all the efforts they have made for many years to make this a school which many parents regard with pride.”

 

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