Parents have occupied the roof of a South London primary school in a bid to keep it open.
On the morning of April 23rd, parents of children at Lewisham Bridge Primary School, Elmira Street, Lewisham, occupied the roof of the school buildings. They are protesting against Lewisham Council's decision to demolish the school and replace it with a new school run by a private company for ages 3 through to 16. The school is currently closed and the pupils have to arrive an hour early to be bussed to a vacant site in New Cross. This means a very long day for the children.
The school building was listed by English Heritage in a move that has been condemned by the elected New Labour Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock. However, this situation is in many ways entirely of Bullock's making, coming as it does at the end of years of one bad decision leading to another where Lewisham's schools are concerned. While Lewisham council will give themselves permission to ignore the listing, it will take time and there is no need for the kids to be bussed.
The plans to demolish the school and turn it into a 3-16 one come against a shortage of primary school places across London and a local shortage of secondary places in the north part of the Borough of Lewisham. The shortage of secondary places dates back to Labour's decision to demolish the Telegraph Hill School in the 90s and replace it with the Crossways Academy 6th form centre. Most of the other schools in the north of the borough operate some sort of selection, meaning that many local children cannot get into them. After losing a council seat to a local edcuation campaign, Bullock recognised that a new secondary school was needed. He then prevaricated about a site before settling on Ladywell pool, which at the time was the borough's only open full size swimming pool. A vigorous local campaign by pool users, combined with crucial losses for Labour in wards local to it, meant that Bullock relented on using the pool site. Lewisham Bridge was identified as an alternative because it was next to another development site, and has a high proportion of parents whose first language isn't English. Despite these problems, it is rated as having amongst the best pastoral care in the UK.
The site next to Lewisham Bridge is currently planned to be a new swimming pool, shops and private homes, including a 24 storey tower block. Presumably no one who lives there will have children, and need them to attend a local school.
The occupiers can be found at: http://defendeducationlewisham.wordpress.com/
They are currently occupying 24 hours a day and welcome visits.