blogacad.jpg Pictured above is a campaign against another city academy in London All over England teachers and parents are uniting together to defeat government proposals to turn schools into independently run city academies. This is a description of a recent successsful battle in London. In July 2004, we were shocked to hear that our community primary school was being considered as a candidate to become a 3-19 academy. It was announced at our governors’ AGM and the Director of Education received her first taste of what the opposition to the plan may mean. Parents were very hostile. One parent asked,“Why do they always want to experiment on poor, black kids?”The plan was to turn a 2-form entry primary school into an all- through school for over 1,600 children. The initial plan had a playground on the roof and a five storey block instead of the current 2 storey and single storey building. Our school has a lot of green space and 3 football pitches for the junior children. The borough had a school closure programme ten years ago when many sites were sold off for luxury flats. The union campaigned against it at the time. Very soon afterwards the crisis of a lack of secondary school places meant a desperate search for any small plots of land in public use that could fit more children in. The plans for our school mentioned that it was below the space required but with ‘imaginative and innovative design’ this could be overcome!It also meant buying a plot of land 15 minutes walk away to use for sports, as the new plan would not be able to squeeze any sports space into the site.During the whole academic year of 2004/2005 we waged a campaign which involved governors, all teaching and support staff unions, parents and local residents. The council initially agreed that we had a point and the space was not big enough, so they included the sheltered housing unit across the road in the plan. They forgot to inform the elderly residents of this proposal and they were shocked to see our leaflet come through their door. They put big notices in their window stating –‘Lambeth council – war has been declared’.We leafleted the local estates and neighbouring streets, held a VE day garden party in the sheltered housing grounds, took delegations to every council meeting, demonstrated outside the town hall and produced many newsletters. A parent wrote to two potential sponsors and they both backed off to avoid adverse publicity. The opposition was partly a defence of a community primary, partly a fight to keep the school in the public sector and partly about the way that the council conducted its consultation process.A series of consultation meetings had been called in local primary schools. At the first one about 20 Glenbrook campaigners turned up and about 5 members of the public. It was laid out without seats so that people could ‘wander’ around, look at the display board and ask questions individually. We soon turned it into a meetings, everyone got chairs, sat round and bombarded the council officer with the arguments against the proposal. At the end the officer asked me if I was going to attend every meeting. I replied that I was. The last 3 meetings in the series were cancelled at short notice and replaced by a council officer handing our leaflets to parents on the school gate. When I asked if he regarded that as consultation, he responded that parents were free to phone the number on the leaflet if they had objections. The meetings that were held in our school were laid out in a ‘conference’ style: tables set out with chairs around them; everything to avoid a situation where a hostile public would face a table of council officers. A key strategy throughout our campaign was to take a vote and then use that information in all our speeches and publicity. We were able to say that the governors and all union members had voted unanimously against the plans and 85% of the parents had voted no. In the last week of term we found out that we had won. The council decided to back away from the Glenbrook plan due to the scale of the opposition. They stated, “There is little support for the proposal from within the school”. At the start of the campaign many said we would not change a decision that had already been made. Now we know that campaigns can make a difference and it’s possible to fight and win.