Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/488/2431
Lewisham council attacks education
IN LEWISHAM in south London, the Defend Education in Lewisham campaign, set up after a packed public meeting in January, is holding a march and lobby of the council on 23 May.
Martin Powell-Davies, Lewisham NUT
Many of the protesters will be angry at plans to 're-organise' provision for special educational needs. The council have just finished a 'consultation' on plans which would see places in special schools cut or merged with mainstream schools, that will be expected to meet an even greater range of special needs.
Socialist Party councillors Chris Flood and Ian Page are backing the campaign to stop New Labour's mayor and cabinet worsening our education. As the Socialist Party group said in its official response to the consultation: "We believe these proposals make a mockery of genuine 'inclusion'.
"Any attempt to transfer places for children from special school to mainstream schooling can only succeed if sufficient funding is available to provide the individual support, staffing, specialist training and resources that will be needed to support children with special needs in the mainstream environment."
Local schools are already struggling to meet the needs of existing pupils and the council will not be injecting the resources schools need to make sure every child's needs are met.
There are other threats to education in Lewisham. A huge protest campaign forced New Labour to back down on plans to demolish a valued leisure resource, Ladywell Pool, to build a much-needed new school, but the council have still not explained how their replacement idea for an 'all-through' 3-16 school will fit onto the small site at Lewisham Bridge school.
The council also plans to turn Monson primary school in New Cross into the 'feeder school' for Haberdashers' Aske's Academy. Every school should be a good school. But academies like Aske's disadvantage other schools by taking more than their fair share of able 'Band One' pupils. Because academies are independent of democratically-elected councillors, they run their own admissions.
Instead of demanding Aske's end their unfair policies, however, New Labour rewarded them! First they were given millions to take control of Knight's Academy school. Now the plan is to give them Monson too.
This will set up divisions in primary education that already damage secondary schools. Monson should be properly supported by the council, not given away.
A few parents may welcome access to Aske's through New Labour's plans for Monson. Others will move nearby to try and 'buy' a place. Estate agents already report rising prices in surrounding streets. But, once again, for every 'winner' there will be many more 'losers'.
In last year's 'consultation' local primary schools overwhelmingly opposed the Haberdashers' Aske's Monson takeover plan. Now is the time to make the council listen, to defend education in Lewisham.
In The Socialist 24 May 2007:
Labour Party leadership
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Environment and socialism