Friday, July 06, 2007

New School for Lewisham - a community school please, NOT another academy

New School for Lewisham - mininster for education refuses to give Lewisham exemption from competition process.

Following the Mayor's decision to build the new secondary school at Lewisham Bridge, instead of at Ladywell Leisure Centre, the council applied to the secretary of state for education for exemption from competition rules, ie permission to go ahead and build a community school instead of having to organise a competition allowing any organisation who wanted to bid to run the school as an academy, foundation school or similar. Unfortunately, the secretary of state has turned down that request. A report going to Mayor & Cabinet tonight outlines various options for the Mayor, including asking for permission for Lewisham to take part in the competition process for a new school (yes, that's right, ask for permission to build our own school in the borough), persuading Leathersellers (who run Prendergast School) to ask for exemption from the competition process allowing them to open a foundation school or going ahead with a full competition process in which any interested organisation could bid to run the new school (ie as an academy and anyone from McDonalds to a religious group could decide to bid for this).

I strongly believe the council should stand its ground and seek permission to bid for a community school. I'm not convinced the council should have to ask permission from the government for this at all, but that is how things stand (ironic in the same week when the government announced pilots to devolve more decision-making powers to local communities). There has been cross-party consensus within Lewisham Council on the desire for a new community school, not an academy or foundation school and I hope this continues to be the case. I believe a community school would best serve the needs of local people and I am concerned that an academy would be less accountable to local residents and the local authority.

Update (11.15pm): the Mayor approved the recommendations he was given in the report, which means that the council will see if Leathersellers get exemption from the competition process and then go for a foundation school. I would like to have seen the Mayor fight for what I thought was the consensus within the council and seek permission to bid for a community school as Haringey recently successfully did and won. Very disappointing.


Eleanor said...

Do you know if Leathersellers got exemption?

Eleanor Davies
Ladywell Ward

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard, but will try to find out.

Anonymous said...

Hi Eleanor
I've just found out that yes, Leathersellers have been granted exemption from the competition process and the Council is apparently preparing to consult on this.