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20 May 2009

Charlotte Turner

PARENTS AT Charlotte Turner primary school went into occupation on 7 May to try to force Greenwich council into talks about their threat to close the school. LEANNE GRAHAM, one of the occupying parents, told Sarah Sachs-Eldridge what they are fighting for.

"We're doing a peaceful protest. The council has given us a phoney consultation when we want answers. They want to close our school. The parents' forum, which is fighting to stop the school's closure with protests, public meetings and petitions, has organised the sit-in. Gillian Palmer, Greenwich council's director of children's services is sending her deputy down but we want answers. We're not going to disrupt education but we're prepared to stay all night.

"Since we first heard about the plans in January, we've been to all the consultation meetings. The council had a consultation paper - 296 people disagreed with it and only one agreed, but they still went ahead with the next stage of their plans!

"Part of the reason is that most children here live in Lewisham borough as the school is on the border. Greenwich parents have received letters, offering reserved places in other schools but Lewisham parents have received nothing. But 90% of all parents will have to get buses to another school and some are looking at four bus rides.

"It disrupts parents' routine. One parent got a job in January but had to give it up as she doesn't know what's going on - it's very stressful. That's why we're protesting."

The occupation had an effect - the deputy came running to organise discussions. But Leanne told us after the sit-in: "We didn't get much out of Mike Bright, the deputy. They're not prepared to give the children a chance. The school is coming up if you score in the added-value measures.

"The council say that they want to close the school to give children better education, but one of the schools they want to decant pupils to is Morden Mount, which is bottom of the league table for Greenwich borough children.

"Why are they closing our school, which has been improving ever since it became Charlotte Turner? Rome wasn't built in a day. Schools are usually given two years in special measures - there's a hidden agenda somewhere. The school is being discussed at a Greenwich council cabinet meeting on 19 May."

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