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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 September 2007

Medway schools

THE LOCAL press in Medway, Kent, published a leaked local authority memo this week, which explained that ten unnamed schools will have their futures reviewed for merger or closure in the New Year.

Jacqui Berry

The council aims to cut back services, particularly focusing on schools in some of the poorest areas, with the lowest academic achievement and falling admission. Nine primary schools have been highlighted by the press as at risk, and one secondary school, which last year came bottom of the country's league tables; with only 2% of pupils achieving five A-C grades at GCSE.

Of the nine primary schools in the spotlight, all are either 'over-spending' (aka under-funded) or have "unsatisfactory standards". A third are faith schools. We can expect the Tory council to dress up possible closures as an attempt to unite communities and pull down the barriers of division. However the real reason behind the mergers or closures is obvious - the council recently announced a 6.4 million deficit.

We can expect huge swathes of cutbacks in locally provided public services. It has already been announced that a well-used local leisure centre will be shut down. Yet the council spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on paying consultants.

The schools mergers and closures are part of the council's drive to cut costs, regardless of the implications for teachers, parents and students attending these schools. On top of that, schools not currently facing closure will have to take on more students, as many parents will be put off sending their child to a school which may very well shut down.

The council's refusal to release the names of schools affected has created confusion and division as many teachers and parents panic about the near future. This may be deliberate on the council's part. Workers and communities are easier to attack when they are divided and confused rather than united and prepared to fight back.

The details of the council's plan are still unclear, but what is clear is the need for united action from teachers, school support staff, parents and students.

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