Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/496/2652
The Socialist 19 July 2007 |
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Council cuts threaten schools
Lewisham schools: defending 'outdated' equality
VOTERS IN Lewisham, south London thought they were electing their council to run local schools and services. Lewisham's New Labour councillors, however, think their job is to give schools away to private bidders!
Martin Powell-Davies (Lewisham NUT secretary and Defend Education in Lewisham)
A long-running parental campaign finally convinced Lewisham council that a new secondary school was needed to provide much-needed additional places in the north of the borough. There was never any suggestion then that the new school would be anything but a local authority run community school.
But the recent Education Act forces the council to hold a 'competition' to see who should run it. If the new school is given away to become a Trust, Academy or Foundation school, then staff employment, site ownership and admissions arrangements will no longer be in the hands of the elected council. Lewisham's Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, just accepts this threat.
The new school would become the fifth secondary school in Lewisham not to participate in the borough's 'area-banding' system. Instead of a planned comprehensive system, admissions will start to splinter into the kind of 'free-for-all' that already blights education in some other boroughs. The gap between the 'best' schools and the rest will widen further and many families and children will lose out.
In Lewisham over £10 million may have to be found from council resources to help fund the new school. But the school won't be owned by Lewisham! Can the Mayor explain that to council tax payers?
I was granted five minutes to speak to the 11 July Mayor and Cabinet meeting on behalf of the joint teacher unions. But New Labour councillor Massey, responsible for schools, merely said I was defending an "outdated" idea from 40 years ago.
What would previous generations of Labour campaigners for comprehensive education have said to that? Instead of persuading Gordon Brown to change government policy, Massey wants to "celebrate it"!
Some councils at least show the political will to hold onto their schools. The London borough of Haringey put in its own 'bid' to run its new school as a community school. It successfully beat off other bidders so it can now run the school as a local authority, comprehensive school.
Clad in bright yellow 'Defend Education in Lewisham' campaign t-shirts, parents and staff lobbied the 11 July meeting.
We believe the Mayor should be fighting the whole damaging 'competition' legislation. But, if the Labour council won't challenge its own government's policies, we at least expect them to try and follow Haringey's lead.
The Mayor rejected that approach on 11 July. At the 18 July full council meeting Socialist councillors Ian Page and Chris Flood will again propose that the council seeks approval to submit its own bid. If the council won't defend Lewisham's schools, then the Defend Education Campaign will!