Consultation to begin on Carlton Primary School’s closure after Camden Council cabinet vote

Michael Palin joined students and Jenny Hindson, Edible Playground co-ordinator for Trees For Cities

Michael Palin joined students and Jenny Hindson, Edible Playground co-ordinator for Trees For Cities, as he opened the learning garden at Carlton Primary School in 2015. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A consultation will begin on the closure of Carlton Primary School later this month, after Camden Council’s cabinet backed the move in a crunch vote on Thursday night.

Carlton Primary School. Picture: Google

Carlton Primary School. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

The plans will see Carlton close and merge with nearby Rhyl Primary School after a year of discussions behind the scenes. The school will be run across both existing sites, but Carlton will cease to exist as a separate entity.

In a deputation to the virtual cabinet meeting, carer Sally Kellner said parents had drawn up an alternative plan for the site to be shared with Gospel Oak nursery. She also asked for assurances that places would be kept for staff and pupils from Carlton at Rhyl should the merger go ahead.

For the second time in as many days, Camden’s education chief Angela Mason dodged the question on staff and pupils, but in response to a plea from Ms Kellner and Conservative leader Oliver Cooper, she said parents would have access to an “open book” of information, in order to put an alternative proposal together.

READ MORE: Former head calls for ‘meaningful public engagement’ around Carlton and Rhyl schools mergerCllr Mason added: “I will certainly provide all the information that we have. We are open to listening to other ideas. Clearly the financial viability of any proposals do have to be considered, as all primary schools have asked us [to provide a plan], we all have to find a solution that is sustainable.”

“There will be ample opportunity for parents and people living in the community to put forward their ideas about how to proceed.”

During her presentation to the committee, Cllr Mason revealed that Camden Council was currently providing £500,000 of funding a year to schools with falling numbers. She indicated that the problems with school rolls may eventually affect Camden’s secondary schools.

Earlier this week, Sir Michael Palin echoed Ms Kellner’s concerns, suggesting the town hall need to recognise the “outstanding contribution” staff at Carlton had made to education in the borough.

With the backdrop of falling rolls, the town hall has proposed a reduction of 135 primary school places across the borough. In October 2019 there were 230 pupils in reception to year 6 at Carlton, which has a capacity of 420 places. Nearby Rhyl had 328 pupils on roll, with the same capacity as Carlton. The changes would come into effect in September 2021.

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The argument about falling borough-wide school rolls has been used by campaigners against Abacus Belsize Primary School’s proposed move from Camley Street to the old Hampstead Police Station.

The consultation on the approved plans will begin on September 28, and close on November 16.

After this, Camden’s cabinet will have another vote on whether to continue, before another month’s consultation in early 2021.

On Wednesday Cllr Mason told a council scrutiny meeting: “All of this is difficult, it’s not easy. It’s not a situation that we wished at all. But I believe that if we can work together, we can find a solution which will provide a stronger base for primary education in the Gospel Oak area and recognise and deal with the interests of all teachers and most importantly all pupils.”

Other planned changes to the borough’s primary school provision include merging Our Lady’s and St Michael’s primary schools in Camden Town, and closing St Michael’s in Camden Street.

The number of places will be reduced at St Dominics Catholic Primary School in Southampton Road, Netley Primary School in Stanhope Street and Argyle Primary School in Tonbridge Street. All of which had vacancies last year.

Responding to the vote, Cllr Cooper said: “To date, Camden has not given parents enough time or information to put together a full plan to rescue Carlton.

“I am glad Camden has finally committed to provide all the information asked for, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If the consultation is not to be a sham and Carlton isn’t to be doomed, Camden needs to do more than it has done.”