Carlton Primary merger: Sir Michael Palin urges Camden to recognise school’s ‘outstanding’ staff if plans get green light

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

Television and film luminary Sir Michael Palin has called on Camden education bosses to make sure the “outstanding contribution” of staff at Carlton Primary is recognised if the Gospel Oak school’s merger with nearby Rhyl Primary is ratified at a meeting on September 3.

Sir Michael, who has long been a patron of the school in Grafton Road, told this newspaper he thought the town hall should be “very proud of it”.

In a report set for approval by Camden’s cabinet on Thursday, plans for a merger which will see Carlton “legally closed” and a new Rhyl Primary based across the two schools’ current sites are laid out.

READ MORE: Camden Council plan for closure of Carlton Primary and merger with Rhyl as part of sweeping school changesThe scheme is part of wide-ranging changes to primary and early-years education in the borough as the council seeks to react to dramatically low pupil numbers locally.

Other mooted changes will see Our Lady’s and St Michael’s in Camden Town merged too, and a reduction in places at St Dominic’s Catholic Primary in Southampton Road, Netley Primary in Stanhope Street and Argyle in Tonbridge St.

Sir Michael said: “Over the years in which it’s been my pleasure and privilege to be a Patron of Carlton School, I have grown to admire the spirit of the school, the dedication and commitment of the staff and the bright and thriving environment.

“To have created such a positive learning atmosphere when a majority of the pupils don’t have English as first language is something the staff should be rightly proud of.”

READ MORE: Former head calls for ‘meaningful public engagement’ around Carlton and Rhyl schools mergerHe said Camden should be particularly proud of what had been achieved in “one of the more disadvantaged parts of the borough”.

He added that if the merger gets the go-ahead, Camden should “make sure that in any merger, their [staff at Carlton] outstanding contribution to the educational achievements of the council, will give them equal recognition with the work of those already at Rhyl.”

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He said to treat them otherwise would be a “waste and, indeed, a betrayal”.

The Monty Python star’s comments echo those of local councillor Jenny Mulholland and Noella Bella-Castro – a parent at Carlton. Both called for assurances there would be a “merger of equals” and that staff’s job security at Carlton would be safeguarded.

Camden’s education chief Cllr Angela Mason (Lab, Cantelowes) said the move was necessary as births in the borough had fallen by 20% since 2012. She added: “If we don’t take action, this will put our primary schools at huge risk, leading to unplanned school closures or changes which in turn could lead to uncertainty for families and poorer outcomes for pupils.”

A number of parents and even a former Carlton headteacher have also written to the Department for Education (DfE) calling for “meaningful public engagement” before changes go ahead.

Camden have said that if the move is backed at cabinet, a public consultation will open in late September.