Parents and pupils protest against Kentish Town schools merger

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

Parents have accused the leaders of a popular Kentish Town infants’ school of railroading through plans to merge with the junior school next door.

Hundreds have signed a petition to demonstrate their opposition to proposals to merge Torriano Infants’ and Torriano Junior schools together over the summer before the beginning of the next academic term in September.

They claim the merger is being rushed through and that parents have not been properly consulted since the plans were announced last month.

On Monday, they staged a protest to urge leaders to consider more options for the future of the schools.

Father-of-two Dr Johnny Downs, 36, whose son attends the infants’ school, said: “I will be really, really upset if the merger is railroaded through.

“I think they need to stop it and rethink it. It will be terrible because there will be a change in morale and there’s a risk that teachers will leave.”

The psychiatrist added: “At first, it didn’t seem like ‘shock horror’. But what has really riled me is the handling of the consultation process.”

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Parents have complained that they have been given the bare minimum of four weeks to comment on plans for the merger, and that only one option has been put forward.

They have until tomorrow (Friday) to voice their opinion.

The proposal would see the closure of Torriano Infants’ School and the expansion of the Junior School to allow 420 pupils to attend in total. Both school sites would be retained.

The school would be ruled by one headteacher and a single governing body. Currently, the schools have separate headteachers, executive headteachers and governing bodies.

It has been speculated by some parents that the merger is being proposed to prevent the infants’ school from being turned into an academy by the government, after Ofsted judged it to “require improvement” at its last inspection in 2014.

The junior school was ranked as “outstanding” by Ofsted following an inspection in 2009.

They have also accused Camden Council of railroading the merger through to make financial savings.

Each school currently receives a £150,000 lump sum from the local authority, but the merged school would only receive £255,000.

The schools’ leaders argue that the merger would provide a more stable learning experience for children, and reduce the high turnover of staff.

Luca Salice, chairman of governors at Torriano Junior School, said: “Two schools is not advantageous for children. It’s true that this was only made public one month ago but there have been talks behind the scenes about doing something like this since at least February last year.

“I don’t think it’s rushed and we need to remember that we are doing it for the children and their education. We are listening to parents. The decision has not been made yet. I have a view of what will be good for the future of the school but we will receive the consultation and it will go to governors.”

Governors at both schools will vote on the merger before Camden Council makes the final decision.