Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Battle of Lewisham Bridge

From BBC News today:

Protesting parents have occupied a school roof-top to voice opposition against plans to build a new academy. Children from Lewisham Bridge Primary School are being bussed from their school gates to a temporary school in nearby New Cross as part of the plans. Campaigners said the disruption would adversely affect their children's education and want the plans reversed. But Lewisham Council insisted the plans to build a new secondary school on the current site were vital.

"Myself and a number of other parents are very angry that our children are being expected to go to a school that is over a mile away from where we live, while our own school stands empty," said Eleanor Davies, one of the roof-top protesters. "The council decided that all the children and staff would have to leave the school before they got planning permission to build their new academy."

English Heritage confirmed that the primary school has been given Grade II-listed status.
Campaigners said they hoped that will delay the council's plans to demolish the two-storey Victorian building. Council leaders described the school's new listed status as a "shock decision". "This decision beggars belief," said Lewisham's mayor Sir Steve Bullock. "It has been made by an undisclosed civil servant with no regard whatsoever for local need. The future prospects of our children and young people cannot be sacrificed for the sake of somebody's fancy for Edwardian sinks, butterfly designs and tiling."

He said a rising population within the borough meant the borough needed additional secondary school places. The new academy Lewisham wants to build will cater for children aged three to 16 and would be run by Leathersellers, a City Livery company.


ross said...

would urge anyone near to drop by to show some support for the parents, or even do a shift on the roof

Anonymous said...

The BBC article is slightly inaccurate; it's not an academy that's being proposed, it's a foundation school to be run by Leathersellers, as part of a hard federation along with Prendergast Hilly Fields and Prendergast Ladywell Fields (what was Crofton School). Not the community school we wanted, but not an academy either.

The Mayor of Lewisham applied to the secretary of state for exemption from the competition process to build a new community school, but the minister said no, and the Mayor decided it was less of a risk to go with a foundation school run by Leathersellers, who have been working in the borough for over a hundred years already, then to open it up to competition and risk any old bunch of fundamentalists running the school. We voted for him to fight for a community school, but lost the motion.

We have a New Labour government, New Labour Council and no indication of anything other than that or Tory next time round. We've been waiting for this new school for 8 years already, no other site is available, affordable or on the cards. We're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place on this. It's not an ideal site, but personally I think it is time to accept this is probably the best we're going to get and build the school. We need the secondary school places and fast.

Anonymous said...

Although the protesters have a point to air, it is sad that they have put very little thought into their protest and that they are going about it in a distainful manner.

Firstly, a protest is suppose to send a message to the persons in power, the decision makers. It is suppose to facilitate discussion between both parites and to give the people a voice as well as inclusion. Unfortunately, this is not what is taking place here.

What purpose does sitting on a school roof in an uninhabited school serve other than to give the protesters a central place to
meet? Surely protesting outside the town hall or protesting outside places that the decision makers actually frequent would make more sense. Whilst the protesters sit on a school roof at the mercy of the delightful English weather, the decision makers carry on with their day, tucking into three course dinners completely undetered by the protesters action and because of this, the protestors are given no real relevant attention at all.

Next on the list is screamning and verbally abusing the teachers as well as encouraging the parents to do so. What does this achieve? The teachers are not the decision makers. They have no influence in the decisions made by the council.
They simply turn up for work to do a job. They only care about teaching the children, so why make attempts to distrupt the children being collected and dropped off? Why shout and verbally abuse them? These teachers are hard working
individuals who are in the middle of something they have not created. They have to turn up to work, they have to do their job and they cannot influence what is taking place here. In fact, they probably don't care where they teach as long as they can teach. This only goes to show that the protestors haven't really thought for one moment, who their target
audience for the protest, should really be? Frankly, venting
frustration at innocent parties such as the teachers is
nothing but misguided and cruel.

Lastly, withdrawing your children from school as a form of protest. Again, what possible purpose does this serve? None other than your child losing out on their right to be educated. It just doesn't sound like the actions of a good parent. If, as an adult, you wish to protest, fine, but why withdraw your child's eduation when their safety is not in question?

I am all for the people standing up and having a voice but protest has to make an impact to the people who can make a decision that possibly changes the situation. Protesting the right way, at the right location, to the right people can make a difference and it is the stark difference between a protest and a unthoughtful misguided mob.

Transpontine said...

"Anonymous", you are making some fairly serious accusations here - I appreciate that you might not want to give your name but I wonder whether you might at least state what your position is so that people can judge whether you have an axe to grind - are you a teacher? A parent? A Lewisham Council officer? I would be very surprized if teachers were being abused - it would certainly not be the policy of the campaigners, nor as far as I am aware are they calling for parents to keep their children off school. Anybody from the campaign want to respond?

ross said...

was up on the roof at the weekend for a bit - they are all in good spirits and the morale seems pretty high - all the parents of the kids at the school are supporting the action, and they said they've had great support from residents nearby as well - they seem determined to be there for as long as it takes to get the school reopened for use in it's current guise and are confident that they can achieve it - quite a nice wee setup they've got on the roof, looks pretty comfortable (for a roof)

they had some workers from visteon visit them the other day which was great and the glasgow parents and prisme workers have also been in touch with them - they said there's been next to no dialogue with the council about possible resolution, usual head in the sand/refusal to confront reality stuff that lewisham council is famous for

on 8th may there will be a decision about any appeal from the council about the listed status of the building, if no appeal is allowed/upheld by english heritage then the council are pretty much fucked in terms of options and common sense would suggest they'd reopen the school, but the fear is they continue the decant and allow the current school building (which is a lovely building and currently stands empty while the kids are bussed away to a place that's not even meant to be a school) to fall into such a state of disrepair (or have an accidental fire like so many other listed buildings/areas in lewisham mysteriously seem to have done over the years) that would allow them to continue with their fuckwitted plans

their a bit worried about the council trying to spin the action as causing even more disruption to the kids, but so far no one anywhere seems to be buying any of it as the only disruption to the kids education that is taking place is caused by the council, plenty of horns honking from passing cars and shouts from kids playing in the street, and a fairly steady stream of folk stopping by for a chat and offering support

as to the poster above, their comments don't really justify responding to, if they want to go away and actually get some facts and talk to them then perhaps a discussion would evolve - until then it looks more like a smear operation

Mat said...

Why are the council so hell bent on trying to demolish this beautiful building? We were all astonished when we realised the plans were so far down the line. The mayor's comments just highlight what a philistine he really is. Lewisham have no record of commissioning quality architecture and then they think for expediency they should be able to demolish our heritage. If the Lewisham population is on the increase and we need more school places, why are we reducing them at Lewisham Bridge? If one and a half forms have moved to Mornington, where will that half go when they come back. Or is it assumed that they will be so dispirited by their treatment over the next 3years(?), that they will have moved to other schools. Or like quite a few people I know, are just planning on moving out of the planned highrise metropolis of Lewisham?