Consultation on controversial Kentish Town school merger discounts views of 600 parents

Pupils, parents, ex-pupils and local residents protest about the proposed merger of Torriano Infants

Pupils, parents, ex-pupils and local residents protest about the proposed merger of Torriano Infants and Junior Schools. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A consultation on controversial plans to merge an infants’ school with the junior school next door has disregarded more than 600 objections from parents and carers.

Governors at Torriano Junior School in Torriano Avenue, Kentish Town, asked parents, staff and the community to have their say on a proposed merger with Torriano Infants’ School, the subject of a indignant protest outside the school last month.

But two petitions signed by a total of 642 people to stop the plans have only been counted as two responses, skewing the results of the consultation published last week in favour of the proposal.

Torriano Junior School’s chair of governors Luca Salice dismissed the claims, and said the merger is “not an issue of numbers”. He said: “It’s up to the local authority to interpret the responses, it’s not that they are not counted. And anyway, it’s not a vote. This is not the Greek referendum. It’s about the arguments made and I’m sure the arguments have been taken into account.”

The results of the consultation revealed that 47 parents, staff and residents support the merger, which would see the closure of Torriano Infants’ School and the expansion of the Junior School to allow 420 pupils to attend in total.

In contrast, 27 said they opposed the junior school’s expansion.

But the consultation made clear that of those 27 responses, two comprised an online petition signed by 372 parents, carers and relatives, and a document containing the names of 270 people.

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They have accused the governors and Camden Council of railroading through the plans.

Mr Salice alleged that many of those who had signed the online petition were from across the world and did not have any right to comment on the proposals.

He also claimed that the document was signed by many people living locally with no connection to the school, who had signed the petition simply because they were asked to. He said: “I’m sorry we can’t win everybody over. But at the end of the day, decisions need to be made and it will be for the benefit of the children, and I hope that parents against it will soon see their children benefit.”

The governing bodies of both schools voted to approve the plans last week, which they hope will provide a more stable learning environment for children and reduce the high turnover of staff.

The merger will be discussed at a children and families scrutiny committee tonight (Thursday) before the council rule on the plans next month.

If approved, the merged school would open on September 11 following another consultation.

Father-of-two Dr Johnny Downs, 36, whose son attends the infants’ school, said the consultation “misrepresented” parents.

Margaret Harvey, chair of governors at the infants’ school, said responses were “well considered”.

A Camden Council spokeswoman said: “Camden’s cabinet meeting on July 22 will make a decision on whether there should be a public notice published on the proposed merger of Torriano infant and junior schools.

“If the decision is for the notice to be published, then there will be a four-week period for comments and objections and all interested stakeholders will be able to provide their views.

“This period is due to run from August 13 until September 9 with a decision being made on the proposals on September 10.”