Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Sulivan school scandal should shame Michael Gove and galvanise the Green Party

The outdoor space currently enjoyed by Sulivan children
Tomorrow evening there will be a panel discussion at the Green Party Conference in Brighton chaired by Natalie Bennett, the Green Party leader on Free Schools and Academies. The panel includes Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT and education campaigner and author of School Wars, Melissa Benn.

On Saturday I will be moving a motion calling for the revision of Green Party Education Policy in the light of the enormous changes brought about by the Coalition government.

Down in Fulham in South West London a battle is raging which epitomises these issues. Sulivan Primary is a local authority school rated Good with outstanding features by Ofsted. It is a small school with a form entry of 45 children. It is strongly supported by its parents who rate its care for pupils, accessibility for SEN and disabled children, and the amazing learning opportunities provided by its large play areas and outdoor science laboratory.

 Just the kind of child-centred community school that we in the Green Party would like to be the norm.

Save Our Sullivan campaigners at Hammersmith Town Hall
But Sulivan is threatened with closure by the flagship Tory borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, not because of any inadequacies on the part of the school but because the borough wants to find space for a proposed free school, Fulham Boys Free School.

In a further twist it wants to close Sulivan and transfer pupils to New Kings School, a one form entry school which is committed to become a privately sponsored academy.

At present there is spare capacity at Sulivan (overall 89% full but at capacity in younger classes) the closure/merger would actually reduce the overall number of school places at a time when an increase in demand is projected. The merged school would have a 2 form entry (60 children) against the current joint entry of 75.

Closure of Sulivan will enable the borough to divest itself of a local authority school and will satisfy Gove with another academy and free school to add to the empire which is accountable only to him.

Not surprisingly teachers and parents have risen up against this proposal and organised themselves into a effective lobbying force.  At a recent meeting about the closure, attended by parents, teachers, residents and governors there was standing room only with the attendance estimated at between 250 and 300.

An account of the meeting can be found HERE . Among the contributions was one by the mother of a child with impaired mobility who said that the single storey Sulivan was accessible for her child. She feared segregation at the Victorian New Kings, even if a lift were fitted.

A child bravely got up in front of the panel and large audience and, praising her headteacher and teacher several times, said that she loved he school and that she and other children would do everything they could to save it. She got huge applause from the audience but only a 'we'll bear what you say in mind' from the chair.

A teacher pressed the question, 'Please explain – with evidence and examples -  how you know that this amalgamation will provide a better education for the children.' and never got a satisfactory answer. Because of course this is not a decision that will be made on educational grounds but one made to further Gove's agenda of dismantling democratically controlled and accountable schools and opening the system up for privatisation and eventual profit making.

The dismissal of parents' views (unless they are parents who want to set up free school), ignoring of children's interests, and undemocratic procedures and sham consultations are all consistent with what teachers, parents and governors are experiencing with converter academies and forced academies.

The Green Party must stand alongside local campaigners on these issues.

Follow Save Our Sulivan on Twitter @SaveOurSulivan

1 comment:

trevor said...

I want to know what kind of world would grow in the hands of the green party?
would they continue to permit smoking?
since smoking causes 100,000 people to die every year plus the treating of people with health problems caused from smoking adds an extra £5 billion to the NHS budget every year.
plus smoking has caused the dirty cracked uneven pavements that we walk and trip over from day to day to become the new ashtrays for tobacco addicts
and so as we walk around from day to day all we see is endless cigarette butts just about everywhere in this borough
which reflects how widespread tobacco addiction is,
therefore it be right for a political party that claims to be green
to ignore the above?
also in what way would they inspire people to dispose of household rubbish properly?
the keep britain tidy campaign obviously failed and now more and more people are treating the environment as if it is the new dustbin.
and how would the green party inspire people to eat healthy food rather than fat laden fast food which is not just the cause of obesity etc but also the cause of the litter problems in this borough?
I just cannot visualize a green society that isn't infected by greed driven businesses.
society has been allowed to become so corrupt so much that is is like a car or train without brakes or it has brakes but the people driving the society are so corrupt that even when they see people getting hurt they do nothing because they depend on people getting hurt to build this society.
its no different from the days of slavery when people were used and ill treated like animals for the sake of profit.