Haggerston school keeps on fighting

AROUND 200 pupils, parents and teachers gathered outside Haggerston
girls’ school’s gates recently to show Hackney’s Schools Organising
Committee (SOC) what they thought of plans to make Haggerston a
mixed-sex school.

Suzanne Beishon

A lively demonstration set off for the Learning Trust HQ with pupils
chanting, wearing badges, and carrying balloons, placards, and banners.
Pupils then gathered on the Town Hall steps to watch a GCSE drama group
perform their exam piece and performances from the year nine choir and
the school’s Turkish dance group.

Pupils, parents and teachers opposed the Trust’s plan from the
outset. The Trust wants to break up the strong community feeling in and
around the school in order to make future privatisation easier to push

They also want to break down the school’s strong NUT group (which
Trust managers call the ‘Haggerston Soviet’) because many teachers would
leave if the school’s present status changes.

Haggerston is successful. Ofsted praised it as among the best schools
in the country, taking into account its ‘value added’ score. The Trust,
however, say too many boys have to go to schools outside the borough and
they need to sort this out, but many girls also leave the borough. And
in the last few years one mixed school and two boys’ schools have been
closed down.

The Trust also say Haggerston cannot ‘compete’ with the Bridge
academy, a mixed academy run by UBS bank, being built 100 yards from the
school. The Bridge is being built on the undersized site of a closed
primary school, and rumours suggest that UBS wants Haggerston school,
with its large grounds, to be their academy and the new building to be
its sixth form.

At the SOC meeting after the protest, a Muslim parent explained that
her community wanted the continued choice of an all-girls multicultural
community school, otherwise many would feel compelled to look at what
she saw as the unwelcome segregation of private faith schools.

As the SOC couldn’t decide on Haggerston’s future, the final decision
will be taken by the government’s Schools Adjudicator.