Lewisham Council has been at the fore of New Labour education policy embracing every latest neo-liberal attack on state education. Since Haberdashers Askes took on academy status they have been looking for ‘opportunites’ to expand their portfolio and influence within the Borough. Lewisham Council has overseen the break-up of state education by supporting the establishment of Knights Academy and the handing over of Monson primary school so that it can act as a feeder school to Haberdashers Askes. We also have another academy renamed St Mathew’s Academy when the Catholic church took advantage of the offer of millions of state investment to rebuild what was known previously as St Josephs.
It is true to say that the status of academies has been undermined by bad press, corruption, and a failure to raise ‘standards’ even in the narrow terms as defined by government statistics.
That is partly why the government established Trusts as the new form of backdoor privatisation. In some senses, trusts are worse than academies. Under Trust status, the private sponsors don’t even have to put up a few cool million. They get the land, the buildings and the assets for nothing!
Leathersellers who run Prendergast Girls school, renamed Prendergast Hilly Fields have recently taken Crofton school into their ownership and control (now called Prendergast Ladywell). They plan to take control of the new 3-16 school planned for the current site of Lewisham Bridge, but have met fierce oppostion from parents and the local community lead by the campaign Hands off Lewisham Bridge.
The aim of Leathersellers is to establish a Trust across the three secondary schools with one Executive Head and an appointed governing body. This represents a profound attack on democracy where parent or teacher governors will not longer be elected but will be appointed by Leathersellers themselves. They will have powers to decide what admission criteria suits their needs and will have control over aspects of the curriculum.
In short Lewisham Council are handing our schools and the future education of our children to unaccountable private bodies who view education in very narrow and status driven terms.
At the same time two other secondary schools are under threat of Trust Status – Depford Green and Addey and Stanhope. Goldsmiths University has expressed an interest in taking over these two schools as part of a Trust.
What we are seeing in Lewisham is the development of a two tier education system where Trusts run by private companies vie for their position in the market and use all the dirty tricks we would associate with city trading.
Young people who they deem as worthless because they can’t be ‘cashed in’ their ruthless drive to get to the top of the league tables, will be turned away. If your child has special educational needs or doesn’t fufil the narrow definition of ‘success’ in academic terms they will be turned away.
The remaining state schools in the borough will have the statutory responsiblity to educate children that the Trust schools have rejected. This is a return to the Tripartite system of Grammar and Secondary Modern schools by a different name. If this Labour government and their lackeys in Lewisham Council get away with it we will see greater class segregation and inequality and the educational opportunities of thousands of children squandered in the name of ‘standards’ and competition.