Parents occupying Lewisham Bridge Primary School in south-east London are a step closer to keeping the school open after the English Heritage Grade 2 status of the school was upheld.
Supporters and parents of children have been encouraged by the news that Lewisham Bridge Primary School's status as a Grade 2 English Heritage site has been upheld. This means that the school cannot be knocked down and replaced, as had been intended.
Parents had originally occupied the school roof on April 23rd after Lewisham Council's decision to demolish the school and replace it with a new school run by a private company. As the protest went on, more parents and local supporters joint the occupation and solidarity links were built with workers occupying the Visteon plants in Belfast, Basildon and Enfield. Links were also forged with parents occupying four primary schools in Glasgow in April that were being closed.
In a communication with supporters on the Visteon support list, which has become a source of information for a variety of struggles, including school occupations and the ongoing Vestas dispute, Eleanor, a parent at the school stated:
Thursday 30th July Ben Bradshaw (Secretary of State at the Department of Culture Media and Sport) secretary called Hands Off Lewisham Bridge with a very important message; that the English Heritage Grade II listing awarded to Lewisham Bridge Primary School remains in place.
Some supporters and parents view this is a significant victory, while others are being cautious in their optimism, given the premature enthusiasm during the Visteon dispute - workers in Basildon and Enfield overwhelmingly voted for a deal that meant they would lose out on their pensions, while 2 days later, Belfast workers followed the co-workers in accepting the deal, but were considerably split over the vote. Many later expressed dismay at the deal they had voted for and felt betrayed by their union, Unite, which had declared it a great victory. Visteon workers had to re-engage in a battle for their pensions, but had already abandoned their occupations.
In the Lewisham case, while the upholding of the heritage status is a significant step toward parents getting what they wanted, many will not be content until their pupils are back being educated in their normal school. Currently, pupils are being bussed to the Mornington Centre in New Cross, which is a significant inconvenience for most Lewisham parents, and a number of safety concerns have been raised concerning this busing of coach-loads of children every morning, including the fact that buses had been involved in two accidents.
A further demand reiterated in the communication to supporters of the Hands Off Lewisham Bridge! campaign is:
the Council should not allow Leathersellers, a private unaccountable body to run our school and that instead it should remain a local community primary school open to all.
The Hands Off Lewisham Bridge campaign also sent out an encouraging message to workers and communities engaged in struggle:
The Lewisham Bridge victory sends a message to those in struggle from the campaign against the Goldsmiths Trust in Lewisham, parents fighting academies in Barrow in Furness, and the workers at Vestas who have occupied their factory to save 600 jobs, that direct action works. By taking such bold steps, we along with many others have shown that if we stand up and fight we can win. What we must do now is build on this victory and stand up together. This is a fight against privatisation and the selling off of public services; it's a fight against redundancies and the selling off of our jobs. It's a national fight and with our victory we send a message of solidarity to the workers in the Vestas occupation.
Stand up and fight - do it together and we can win!