lewblog.jpg  The Occupation at Lewisham Bridge School Parents are occupying the roof of a school in London, UK, which the local council is planning to close down and re-open as a 'trust' school   Martin Powell-Davies - local secretary of the National Union of Teachers - has sent the following report:

Lewisham Bridge primary school is under threat of demolition. It is the latest in a series of school reorganisations that Lewisham’s Labour Council has been trying to push through against the opposition of the local community.

But we’ve have had enough of being ignored. That’s why parents and campaigners started a rooftop protest at the school at the beginning of term, and have been there ever since. Now, with the support of teachers, a protest march is being organised through Lewisham to keep up the pressure on councillors.

Parents are angry. The Council has already started bussing children to a temporary school site even through their proposals haven’t yet got planning permission. Getting it agreed won’t be straightforward, particularly since Lewisham Bridge has now been given a Grade II listing for its historic design!

The school is under threat because the Council wants to replace it with a school for children from the age of 3 up to 16. There is little convincing research to show that such an ‘all-age’ school would work, especially when it is to be squeezed into a site presently occupied by a primary school with just half of the proposed pupil numbers. It would leave play areas and room sizes below Government recommendations.

The Council say their ‘all-age’ plan is needed to create more secondary places, but don’t they realise that children have to have a primary school place to go to first? The ‘all-age’ school would only have room for one primary class a year, instead of the two that the existing Lewisham Bridge School can take.

The Council’s own figures are now predicting an imminent shortage of hundreds of primary school places in the borough. But planned developments in the immediate vicinity of Lewisham Bridge will make matters even worse.

As Dave Heeps, a parent of a Year 6 pupil, explained from the rooftop occupation: “We’ve been telling the Council for years that their plans don’t add up. Council officers tried to convince us that they could cut primary places because couples moving into the new flats wouldn’t have children! We asked them whether they were going to be handing out condoms with the rent books!”

“Staff are doing an amazing job to try and support children but my daughter is already exhausted getting up early for the busses and coming home late. Meanwhile, a perfectly good primary school is standing empty.”

“As the days have gone by, more parents, like me, have been joining the occupation. We’ve had a phenomenal response. Passing cars are always tooting their horns and local people come by to chat.”

Why won’t the Council admit they’ve got it wrong? Perhaps because the reorganisation is also part of the Council’s wider plans to replace Local Authority comprehensive schooling with unaccountable Trusts and Academies.

The planned ‘all-age’ school would be a ‘foundation’ school that can set its own admissions policy. Staff would be employed by the governors, not the Local Authority. It would probably become part of a ‘Trust’ federation sponsored by the Leathersellers Company that backs the Prendergast federation of schools. The Council have already handed two schools over to the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Academy federation and want three more to become a Trust backed by Goldsmiths College. Three medieval guilds running Lewisham schools – and they call this progress!

Parents and staff are determined to defend education. The Council needs to listen.

Martin Powell-Davies

THE DEMO IS ON SAT MAY 9th, starting at midday from outside the school in Elmira Street, near to Lewisham Station