Lewisham Bridge school occupation

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.

Comments

Choccy
Apr 24 2009 21:55

cool, anywhere we can send support messages?

JoeMaguire
Apr 24 2009 22:45
Quote:
Within a few hours of starting our occupation we received widespread coverage from the BBC, the Evening Standard and London Lite as well as messages of support from Save our Schools Glasgow, Visteon workers, Prisne workers in Dundee and various NUT branch secretaries from around the country, to name but a few.
Auto
Apr 25 2009 18:13
Quote:
Within a few hours of starting our occupation we received widespread coverage from the BBC, the Evening Standard and London Lite as well as messages of support from Save our Schools Glasgow, Visteon workers, Prisne workers in Dundee and various NUT branch secretaries from around the country, to name but a few.

This is one of the best aspects of the story, for me. The fact that links and support are beginning to self-establish across a wide range of struggles.

Apparently a number of Visteon workers have already been down to the school site itself.

MT
Apr 29 2009 07:59

any news? i see nothing new on the blog

flaneur
Apr 29 2009 08:38

Auto, that's right; 12 workers were on the roof.

oisleep
Apr 29 2009 09:44

was up on the roof at the weekend for a bit - they are all in good spirits and the morale seems pretty high - all the parents of the kids at the school are supporting the action, and they said they've had great support from residents nearby as well - they seem determined to be there for as long as it takes to get the school reopened for use in it's current guise and are confident that they can achieve it - quite a nice wee setup they've got on the roof, looks pretty comfortable (for a roof)

they had some workers from visteon visit them as has been mentioned which gave them a great boost and the glasgow parents and prisme workers have also been in touch with them - they said there's been next to no dialogue with the council about possible resolution, usual head in the sand/refusal to confront reality stuff that lewisham council is famous for

on 8th may there will be a decision about any appeal from the council about the listed status of the building, if no appeal is allowed/upheld by english heritage then the council are pretty much fucked in terms of options and common sense would suggest they'd reopen the school, but the fear is they continue the decant and allow the current school building (which is a lovely building and currently stands empty while the kids are bussed away to a place that's not even meant to be a school) to fall into such a state of disrepair (or have an accidental fire like so many other listed buildings/areas in lewisham mysteriously seem to have done over the years) that would allow them to continue with their fuckwitted plans

their a bit worried about the council trying to spin the action as causing even more disruption to the kids, but so far no one anywhere seems to be buying any of it as the only disruption to the kids education that is taking place is caused by the council, plenty of horns honking from passing cars and shouts from kids playing in the street, and a fairly steady stream of folk stopping by for a chat and offering support

can send messages of support to Eleanor on 07946541331

it's still pretty solid

Choccy
Apr 29 2009 10:33

sweet, cheers

martinh
Apr 29 2009 14:50

They had a visit from Belfast Visteon workers yesterday. I had a chat with one of the governors who mentioned that the architects brought in to design the new school didn't even realise there was an access road at the back.

Sorry, that should be "architects" and "design".

Regards,

Martin

Steven.
Apr 29 2009 17:41

Thanks for the update oisleep

Jason Cortez
Apr 30 2009 09:04

Yeah the Belfast Visteon took three of the occuppiers (two parents and suporter) away for dicussions (unfortnately i had to decline, as I had a SolFed meeting sad )and on their return they appeared to be in a rather incoherent condition. We offered them the opppotunity to stay the night with us but they opted instead for the offer of one of the parents to put them up for the night in her house, mumbling something about not having slept in the last 48 hours. Four of us went there in the morning and cooked them breakfast (actually I was standing around getting in the way mainly) and then they can down to the occupation for the bussing (just in case the other parents thought we made it all up) Before they headed off to Swansea to support Rob Williams.
In related news the three mentioned occcuppiers are heading over to Belfast for the Mayday march to join the head of march lead by the Visteon workers. cool

posi
May 2 2009 07:50

Further information here (including the involvement of a shadowy cartel originating in the 14th Century):

http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2009/05/02/the-lewisham-bridge-primary-school-occupation/

MT
May 2 2009 10:29

The commune article says the number on the site is 07806 54527. I just would like to clarify if it is meant a cell phone number or... We are writing an article about the struggle and want to include SMS contact so that people can send soli messages. And osileep gives different number above. So which number is correct for texting?

EDIT: is the decision about the school going to be made on 6t or 8th May. I've just watched the facebook interview and Eleanor mentioned 6th May.

Caiman del Barrio
May 2 2009 10:47

It's a mobile number...you can tell cos it starts with 07. smile

MT
May 2 2009 11:01

so does this: 07946541331

oisleep
May 2 2009 13:06

MT the number i gave is eleanor's mobile so can use either

there's a council meeting about the school on 6th of May and I think the 8th of May is when english heritage (or whoever it is) make a decision about whether an appeal (by the council) about the listed status of the building will be upheld/allowed (someone explained all this to me the other day but i think i might still have it wrong as been a bit distracted the last few days)

a march is planned from the school to lewisham town centre next saturday, 9th of may

was out leafletting for a couple of hours this morning - scan of the leaflet here if anyone's interested

MT
May 2 2009 13:12

thanks a lot!
btw, are any groups involved in this campaign? SLSF are in the area so perhaps them. or anyone else?

Choccy
May 2 2009 18:08

We met Eleanor and another mother today up at the Visteon/Ford Belfast plant. Turns out I knew the other one quite well as she teaches still in the last school I worked in back in 06 smile

They marched in the MayDay parade here and then got a tour of Visteon/Ford plant. I'm over in London in 10 days and will pay a visit if they're still there.

Jason Cortez
May 3 2009 21:04

SLSF are involved, two members having done shifts on the roof (in fact i am just off to spend the night after writing this). One of the mums is a member of Permanent Revolution, as is another key occupier. Other key parents are not polictially afflicated. Lots of supporters are/have been membersof trotskyst or even stanlist groups. The Socialist Party have two councillors locally (in the north of the borough) and the local Branch Secretary of the NUT, they are also big in the Defend Education. The left are all over this, even Newsline are regular vistors. But we still need sustain support in the form of folks willing to do a shift on the roof rota.

Jason Cortez
May 7 2009 09:50

Don't forget the march to Defend Education in Lewisham and in support of the Hands Off Lewisham Bridge Primary School occupation on Saturday 9th May! Meet Cornmill Gardens Elmira Street 12.00.

oisleep
May 7 2009 20:20

another primary school in the area charlotte turner school in greenwich has been occupied by parents protesting against it's closure - wee bit of background about it here

http://defendeducationlewisham.wordpres ... h-borders/

Choccy
May 7 2009 20:56

oh cheers

what's the full link?

Jason Cortez
May 11 2009 12:11

We need folks to come down and spend some time 'up on the roof' anyone willing to commit to regular time slots would be especially great. It you can make it down for a few hours, gave Eleanor a ring on 07946541331. So we can keep the rota up to date. Having said that, we welcome folks just popping by for a chat, so be shy.

MT
May 11 2009 17:45

what was the decision from 8th may and how was the march on 9th?

Jason Cortez
May 13 2009 20:12

Basically Bullock told councillors that they had no Plan B, but conceded he would now at least need to look at alternative sites just in case. Strangely the ones mentioned were the same as Defend Education, Save Ladywell Pool Campaign and others had put forward for years. The council have lodged an appeal against the Grade Two Listing, which I understand will take many months to go through the process (and which they could well lose) and yet they still persist in continuing to bus the children to Mornington Crescent. I wasn't on the demo on Saturday as I was mandated to attend SolFed's national conference. From what I heard/read It was a small (100-300) but lively affair. www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=94554226367
www.wrp.org.uk/ Monday's edition.

Jason Cortez
Jun 12 2009 00:07

The Hands Off Lewisham Bridge group have extended their occupation to include the garden behind the rooftop protest campsite (which has prompted the council to issue evition notice, so come and see us why you still can.). And we will be holding an open day on Friday 12th June from 3pm onwards, come down and have a look, marvel at our compost toilet, have a chat, some coffee and cake. Elmira street, Lewisham Bridge.

AES
Jun 12 2009 00:10

all the best to you

Caiman del Barrio
Jun 12 2009 09:26
Quote:
they still persist in continuing to bus the children to Mornington Crescent

Just to confirm, the children are being bussed to the Mornington Centre opposite New Cross station (about 1.5 miles away), not Mornington Crescent in the borough of Camden. wink

Choccy
Jul 29 2009 00:43

What's the status of this? I haven't heard anything in a while but want to give a heads up in the new Leveller, same as Charlotte Turner school in Greenwich - anyone know?

Jason Cortez
Jul 31 2009 17:59

Lewisham Council helda meeting on Monday the 13th July 2009 at 4pm. Only parents were allowed into the meeting. The Council had obviously realised that they were not going to over turn the grade 2 listing. The council made two options available 1) to continue with the bussing to the temporary school for another year or 2) return the children to Lewisham Bridge in the next academic year and re-decant in the future when the new plans have been drawn up. It was pointed out by parents that if we do not get our children back to Lewisham Bridge the whole bus system will carry on for a very long time. They still need to get planning permission and the building programme of the new school is due to take at least 2 years so in reality this could take a minimum of 3 years.
That there are lots of things wrong with our children going to the Mornington Centre e.g.
Contact with our children’s teachers is minimum.
The weather in winter will be even worse.
It will probably take 5 yrs to build.
Sickness in school is already high.
Children are tired and moody.
The playground is too small and they can’t even run around.
2 of the buses have already been involved in 2 small collisions this could and still can be worse.
They were promised a shelter and other things that would make this transition easier but this has not happened, they have been lied to again.

Please also don’t forget when they first thought of building this school they said it would not happen unless the parents all wanted it. They all turned round and said wthey did not want it and yet they carried on. They have lied to the parents and ignored their views and it took the dramatic action of getting up on the roof and telling them that we are not going to let them get away with their plans to make them finally listen to us.

About sixty parents turned up for the meeting and in the final count five votes for option one and the rest for option two. So the council were to send out voting slips to all parents which had to be back by the close of school term, a very tight deadline. On Thursday we just heard that the listing was upheld, so we expect that Lewisham will be informing parents of this and results of the vote in the near future. We expect an overwhelming vote for return and hope that Lewisham Council will do the most sensible thing now and decant back to Lewishan Bridge over the summer holidays. But i wouldn't be surprised if they in fact do it later in the year, just to spite the parents for disagreeing with them.

Hands Off Lewisham Bridge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!