PUBLIC SERVICES, NOT PRIVATE PROFIT

CAMPAIGN PLANNING MEETING on
MONDAY, OCTOBER 6th 2008, 7.30 pm in the upstairs room
GOOSE on the GREEN PUB, RUSHEY GREEN, CATFORD
 
 

Across the borough and beyond, campaigners and trade unionists are having to confront continuing attacks on both our public services and on our living standards.  In Lewisham:

  • The Council is determined to break-up local Authority schooling with Academies and Trusts
  •  Health services face cuts and privatisation through “A Picture of Health”.
  •  Local Authority housing is being given over to ALMOs and Housing Associations.

 

Meanwhile, while billions are found to bailout the banks, workers are being told that they have to put up with year-after-year of below-inflation pay awards.

But trade unions and communities are beginning to say ‘enough is enough’. The NUT is balloting its members for national strike action to oppose pay cuts. Housing and health campaigners have been organising to defend our services. The Defend Education in Lewisham Campaign is challenging the Council’s damaging proposals.

 

That’s why the NUT, together with Defend Education, have agreed to hold a public meeting later this year to explain what is at stake and how we can fight the attacks. From this initiative, we hope to build a united campaign to defend our services.

 

Lewisham Bridge – NUT issue a legal challenge to the council

This is a summary of the press release issued by Lewisham NUT 25th September 2008

Warnings ignored – legal challenge served

Last month Lewisham Council’s Mayor and Cabinet chose to proceed with their decision to create a new “all-age” school on the present site of Lewisham Bridge Primary School.

 But this decision was made despite repeated reminders from the NUT – both locally and nationally – that it believed that the decision would be in breach of section 14(6) of the Education Act 1996. Regrettably the Council chose to ignore our warnings. As a result, the NUT has been forced to issue our leagal challenge.

  ‘Securing primary and secondary education in separate schools’

The challenge points to the statutory need contained in the 1996 Act for Local Authorities to secure that “primary and secondary education are provided in separate schools”. In other words, children beneath the age of 12 should be taught in separate schools to older pupils. As the law stands, this means that Lewisham’s decision to build an ‘all-age’ school for children aged 3-16 is open to challenge.

Are ‘all-age’ schools the way forward?  Real debate needed

This legal requirement, restricting the creation of schools which are not solely primary or secondary schools, is nothing new. It was first introduced in the Education Act 1944 and has never since been repealed. But this isn’t just a legal nicety. The legislation reflects a long-standing view that different approaches need to be taken to teaching children of different ages. Any change to this approach needs careful debate – but that just hasn’t happened.

In contrast, when some Authorities wanted to try a different approach and introduce ‘middle schools’ in the 1960s, the educational debate led to the law being amended to allow the change. If ‘all-age’ 3-16 schools are the way forward then a full debate is needed first – any law change can then follow.

Lewisham Council ignores parental concerns

In keeping with their approach over other controversial educational initiatives – such as the handing over of Monson School to Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College Academy and the reorganisation of special needs  – Lewisham Council has again chosen to brush aside the well-founded concerns of parents and staff rather than engage in genuine debate.

Council officers have reasserted the benefits they hope all-age schooling can provide in linking primary and secondary practice together. However, they have completely failed to take seriously any other points of view.

Lewisham NUT has consistently asked for further research into both the potential advantages and disadvantages of this form of school organisation in general – and whether it can work on this particular site.

Teachers and pupils have questioned whether primary practice could suffer in a secondary-dominated federation. The effect on admissions across the borough at both primary and secondary age has never been explained. Parents have raised concerns about the health and safety of younger pupils, and the need for sufficient separate play space for different ages, particularly when the plans for the new building have never been properly discussed with them.

Another sorry chapter in Lewisham’s handling of the demand for a new school

This legal challenge is just the latest chapter in the Council’s mishandling of parents’ demands for a new secondary school to meet the shortfall of places in the north of the borough. 

Lewisham Bridge School was originally rejected as a possible site. After alternative plans to build on Ladywell Leisure Centre were abandoned, the Council resurrected the idea of using the Elmira Street site, this time for an all-age school to be established by the Leathersellers’ Company – rather than the community school that was originally planned.

Unfortunately, the NUT suspects that this approach is driven largely by an ideological agenda to hand over more Local Authority schools into the hands of Trusts and Academies.

Of course, the central Lewisham site is still a long way from the north of the borough. Further, in trying to address the issue of secondary places, the plan reduces the provision of primary places in the area – just when the new building work around Elmira Street   further increases primary demand. The danger is that, this time at a primary age, the Council are again blundering over the provision of school places.

Listen to parents and staff

“The Council have nobody else but themselves to blame for this legal challenge.

We hope that, this time, the Mayor will recognise that he needs to listen to parents, staff and their trade unions, instead of just imposing initiatives that have not been properly thought through.

Lewisham Council needs to step back and urgently open a genuine discussion about what is the right way forward for primary and secondary education”.

Martin Powell-Davies, Secretary, Lewisham NUT

M: 07946 445488   Office: 020 8314 7487

Campaign Meeting

The next campaign meeting is on

Tuesday 23rd September

7.30pm

Upstairs at The Goose on The Green (opp. The Broadway Theatre, Catford)

All welcome!

Fight to stop Leathersellers is not over!

As you may have seen, in the summer the Mayor decided to approve the takeover of Lewisham Bridge Primary School by Leathersllers.

He did this in spite of the fact that over 100 parents expressed their concern over the proposal by signing a petition which stated that, above all else parents’ views have not been taken into account.

I saw the Mayor at the Country Fayre on Sunday and I told him that there is a significant number of parents who feel as though our views are being ignored. We have had at least 3 consultations several public meetings, focus groups etc where parents have expressed their concerns for the plan. Each time we are ignored and the plan moves one step further to completion.

I was told that I have mis-represented the issue that this is not privatisation, the new school won’t be a private school. Excuse me Mr Mayor, but I know what a private school is and I’m well aware that this is not a proposal to turn the school into a fee-paying school. But giving away a public asset to a private company used to be called privatisation – maybe they have a new word for it in New Labour. We have several examples of privatisation: Group 4 put in charge of prisons, but kept losing their prisoners! The tragedy of the rail accidents caused by the incompetence of the rail companies. Extortionate charges from energy companies!

I asked the Mayor if he would attend a meeting of parents and teachers at the school where we can air our feelings and get a chance to hear his opinions on the matter. I think we should now put pressure on him to do just that.

Parents have real concerns which it is his duty, as Mayor to address:

1.) Leathersellers is an unaccountable body. They control the governing body. What recourse do parents have if we don’t agree with their strategy for the running of the school?

2.) Why are the land and buildings being given away to Leathersellers?

3.) How has the plans for new school affected recruitment for the current academic year?

4.) The site doesn’t seem to be big enough for such a school. Indeed the Secretary of State is being asked to waive the necessity of providing playing fields on the site because there is no room for them.

5.) There is a plan to decant the school to the Mornington Centre in New Cross. How will that work exactly? How will children and staff be transported there? How will affect the start and end times for the day? How will it affect the many excellent after-school clubs (football, rugby etc.)? How will it affect the after-school club and Breakfast Club? How will nursery children be transported to and from school?

It’s really important that we don’t give up – we are not figures on a page to be moved about by the Education officers at Laurence House. We are real people, this is our children’s future, all of our children!

Eleanor Davies (parent at Lewisham Bridge)