Lewisham Council has been at the forefront of implementing the Government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) and the Academy programme. These ‘initatives’ are part of a programme of privatisation where the management and ownership of school buildings is to be handed over to private companies. In Lewisham the contract for the build and management of our secondary schools has been given to the VT group.
As part of their move towards backdoor privatisation the Mayor and Council plan to:
- Hand over Monson Primary school to Haberdashers Askes – a selective academy.
- Build a new 3-16 years secondary school on the site of Lewisham Bridge primary school and open up the new school to ‘competition’ so that any business can bid to run the school except the Local Authority.
- Create a ‘hard federation’ between Prendergast School, Crofton and the new Lewisham Bridge school – handing over the governance of the two schools to Prendergast.
Despite the fact the Lewisham council have launched ‘consulations’ with glossy leaflets explaining why these proposals will benefit the people of Lewisham, they have failed to convince staff, schools and the wider public that “the Council knows best”. Many fear the proposals will damage education.
The Council’s own public meeting at Lewisham Bridge School voiced overwhelming opposition to the Council’s plans. Fewer than 8% of consultation responses positively endorsed the creation of an all-through school, just as few wanted a federation. Many parents and teachers are deeply suspicious about the motives behind big business wanting to run our schools.
Local parents and teachers also gave a big thumbs-down to the plan to turn Monson primary school into a feeder school for Haberdasher’s Askes Hatcham Academy. Many parents are aware that this decision will only create greater inequality between the local primary schools and are concerned about handing over pubic assetts to the Academy.
Lewisham councillors have a choice. They could again decide to push ahead with unpopular plans against the wishes of local people. But hasn’t the Mayor already learned over Ladywell Baths that this could damage him – as well as education ?
The Defend Education in Lewisham campaign is calling on the Mayor and Cabinet to choose to take a step back instead. There are too many unanswered questions – about what an all-through school would look like, how Aske’s’ admissions affects other schools, about the threat of two-tier secondary education in the borough, forecasts for primary school places, why there is no guarantee of no compulsory redundancies … not to mention special school reorganisation as well.
We say, sit down with parents, staff, unions, council officers to try and agree a way forward – in everyone’s interests