Contentious school merger to proceed as families boss acknowledges ‘difficulty and pain’

Carlton school ‘will cease to exist as a distinct and separate entity’

The long-debated merger of Rhyl and Carlton schools is set to go ahead despite campaigners’ protests and concerns from parents.

At a cabinet meeting last week, children and families boss Cllr Angela Mason accepted the “difficulty and pain” caused by the proposal, drawn up as a result of falling school rolls in the area.

The plans will see a new merged school as well as a new SureStart facility developed on the Carlton site.

Sally Kellner of Carlton’s parents and carers action group hit out at the consultation, calling it “flawed, biased and unrepresentative”, and pointed to a school gate ballot in which 97 per cent of Carlton parents were found to be against the merger.

Speaking at the meeting, Carlton parent Kat Bianco said: “My child is very sensitive, because it took her so long to get into this school and settled, and now she absolutely adores it. I don’t know how it will affect her and what kind of support educational and psychological she will receive at Rhyl. 

“Also, she does not know whether she will be in touch with her current classmates, how she will integrate. She has missed a year of education because of Covid and now we are moving to a new site, it’s all new to her. 

“For a six-year-old you can only imagine how scary it could be. What support is there? How can us as parents be supported as well, because we all have these questions, and we have no say in any of this? How can we have a say?”

Conservative group leader Oliver Cooper asked Cllr Mason what would have changed her mind on the proposals, adding: “Parents are losing faith in being listened to.”

Mason responded by pointing to the recent closure of St Aloysius, similarly as a result of falling school rolls.

In her deputation, Kellner called for children to be issued with passports to aid in their catch-up, which would represent an assessment by their current teacher of their progress to date, their educational history, and their experience of remote learning.

In response, Mason pledge to pass the suggestion on to both heads of Rhyl and Carlton, who she described as “exemplary leaders” who are not opposing the merger.

Parents at the meeting were told that the original proposal was to close Carlton altogether. 

Mason also defended the validity of the council’s consultation, saying that notices were displayed prominently including in all early years settings and all local schools.

The council has said that an “intense period” will now follow in which the two heads will work with parents on their children’s future.

Mason acknowledged that some teachers will lose their jobs, which she said is “an unfortunate fact which we all very much regret”, though some will be transitioning to the new school to help nervous students.

She added: “The proposal to merge Rhyl and Carlton does mean that Carlton will cease to exist as a distinct and separate entity. That is absolutely no fault of the school. It is a good school, the parents speak highly of it, and it is well-respected in the community.

“Carlton School is very much a victim of falling school rolls, caused primarily by a very steep drop in the birth rate in Camden, and probably exacerbated by high housing costs and unregulated AirBnB lettings.

“Many also fear that Covid will have an adverse impact on children and families in the borough.”

EDIT: This article was updated at 12:52 on 31/03/21. Cllr Oliver Cooper was originally presented as asking Cllr Angela Mason ‘why she had changed her mind’.

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