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School caretaker warns against ‘insane’ idea to close primary school

Parents fight to keep Carlton School open

03 January, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

A SCHOOL caretaker is fearing for his future as the battle to keep Carlton Primary School open continues.

Michael Hollis, who has been at the school since 1996, said: “I’ve seen this school do so much good in the community and particularly in Queen’s Crescent where there is a lot of deprivation. The school has become the fabric of the community.”

He added: “Because I live on site it is especially important for me. My whole life is here. If the school would close my whole life would close.”

Mr Hollis spoke to the New Journal at the school Christmas fair where the Carlton Parent Action Group was collecting reasons for the school in Grafton Road to stay open from parents and pupils.

The council has partly blamed a move towards possible closure on a falling birth rate for dwindling pupil numbers. The number of enrolments is directly linked to the amount of funding schools receive.

Council projections do not predict an upward trend but parents in Queen’s Crescent point to nearby Murphy’s yard site which will bring an extra 750 homes.

“It seems like a short-term solution to long-term problems,” said Mr Hollis. “Over 25 years we have seen numbers fall and rise. If they shut the school then in five years’ time the numbers will go up again. It is cyclical. What will they do then – build another school? It is an insane way to deal with a problem. “We know what it means to be in financial crisis. But you don’t get out of it by selling to make short-term solutions. It is really obvious that people really care and don’t want to see school close. Hopefully the council will listen.”

Parents have vowed to fight any attempt to close the 136-year-old school which has served generations of families in the Queen’s Crescent area. An online petition has garnered 1,500 signatures. The school’s potential closure is not a done deal, and one possible way of staying open is to use parts of the site for rental income.

Tina Ryan, a Year 6 teacher, said: “This building is a fantastic resource for children. I love my history and we incorporate the building in lessons about the Victorians. The children get a sense of how tall the windows were. It is not just a school building – it is a learning centre as well.”

A Camden Council spokesman said “no decisions have been made yet”, adding: “In common with the rest of London, we are facing an unprecedented issue where we have too few children to fill our primary school places. Our funding is based on how many places we fill, so we need to manage our school estate with this in mind. We have a duty to work with headteachers and chairs of governors to ensure that our schools are viable, financially secure and successful going into the future. “We will consult with parents, governors and interested parties on any proposals.”

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