I’ve just returned from an open meeting at which a packed audience of parents applauded their children’s teachers for voting in favour of strike action. Forest Hill School for Boys, a community school in south London which serves a mixed demographic, has uncovered an eight hundred thousand pound deficit. Lewisham Council will not reveal how that deficit was allowed to accrue, and when it is suggested that the council themselves must accept liability as they had a duty to audit the school’s accounts, mouth sketchily about not really doing detailed audits into schools’ day-to-day finances anymore. (How shallow must an audit be to miss an 800 grand hole (!))?
This deficit, when combined with punitive and swingeing cuts to school budgets nationwide, will result in the following proposed changes to the education of the boys and the working conditions of the teacher – neither party caused such a deficit, but it is the children and their teachers who will suffer. Already, the following has happened:
ALL lunchtime supervisors laid off.
Learning Support Assistants laid off.
Admin staff decimated.
The plans for the next phase include the following:
Closing the EAL department and having this as a token part of MfL whose numbers are being cut anyway. There will be NO provision for EAL students! They will wander lost and uncomprehending around a building that is a whole other language.
Cutting the D & T department in a boys’ school that serves a working class community.
Some subjects being only offered as ‘twilight’ subjects before or after school meaning some teachers will start teaching before eight and not finish teaching till an hour after home time on the same day.
Free periods in which main-scale teachers are meant to plan and mark reduced to three periods a week!
There appears to be a sense from the Borough that they do not believe that there will be sufficient community upset with this situation to cause the council to admit their liability in failing to properly oversee the school’s budget; there also appears to be a deliberate opacity in communication. Parents were informed in a letter sent home today, which many of the parents did not receive and which spoke in the obfuscated language of the management consultant that there would be a quiet restructure, a rationalization. This is the sate of things to come over the next few years. School budgets decimated, children’s choices closed down, more forced academisation. I call on parents in Lewisham and wider to do the same as the parents of boys at Forest Hill School are doing: to applaud their children’s teachers’ strike action and to stand alongside them on the picket.
Added Wed, 1 Mar 2017 21:37