Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/189/8067
Coventry Council Threatens Education
Don't close our schools!
COVENTRY'S LABOUR-controlled council, backed by the Tories, is rushing through a massive cuts and closures programme.
Councillor Dave Nellist leader, Socialist group, Coventry city council
The council says our schools are too big for the numbers of children in them. They want to get rid of over 2,000 places in Coventry's primary schools. They want their initial plans for closures, mergers and partial demolitions affecting 14 schools, implemented by August.
There is no consultation with teachers, education workers or their unions. The council claims that trade unions and opposition members were briefed on 19 December. That simply didn't happen.
Some parents heard of the plans when the local newspaper asked them for comment. Some teachers only knew when told by their pupils!
Council committees rushed these plans through in two days with only the Socialist Party voting against. If the full council agrees on 25 January there will be eight weeks of formal consultation then four weeks for the council to consider that consultation.
If the general election is on 3 May, you can bet that the council will announce its final decision on 4 May and not before!
No one believes that Coventry's Labour council will genuinely listen to local people - after every other consultation exercise they have implemented their original plans. The council will only be forced to back down if parents, unions and the community wage a massive campaign. The Socialist Party will be at the forefront in helping to organise this.
Three of the affected schools are in St Michael's ward, which is represented by Socialist Party councillors. One school, St Mary's, is proposed for closure with the children transferred to another, St Benedict's. The third is ominously refered to in a document as "If Southfields is retained..."
Local parents are already organising. One parent said: "This decision has not been taken for the benefit of the children at St Mary's, or St Benedict's.
"The decision doesn't take into account the school's above-average SAT results, quality of teaching, the wishes of the parents or the local community. The school is scheduled for closure because Labour agrees with the previous Tory government's arbitrary ruling that each child only needs 1.8 square metres of space."
Coventry Socialist Party believes that the official space per child should be increased, so that as well as classrooms, each primary school has sufficient space for quiet areas, proper libraries, a medical room and computers.
The council should drop plans for cuts or closures, and instead organise a major campaign, along with education unions, parents and the wider community, to call on the government to fully fund schools and increase the space allocated to each primary child so that closures are unnecessary.
In The Socialist 19 January 2001: