by Joe Thorne
Parents faced down four vans of riot cops in Lewisham on Wednesday 24 June, to retain occupation of the Lewisham Bridge Primary School roof. Two days later, parents re-occupied Wyndford Primary School in Glasgow; and the next day formed a picket line, refusing to allow council officials to move equipment from the school.
The direct action is a response to school closures which have placed children’s education under threat, promising large class sizes, and longer journeys to school, as well as disruption in the short term. In the case of Lewisham Bridge, the council plans to transfer the pupils to a school under control of a private foundation, removing elected parent governors.
A report from parents at Lewisham Bridge describes the morning on which bailiffs were scheduled to arrive:
“By 9.00 am there were about 20 of us in the occupation and about 20 in the park below us. We secured the gate and drew up the ladder much to the concern of the few journalists who were now stuck on the roof with us. The crowd below us was swelling with parents and other supporters, including mothers from the Charlotte Turner Parent’s Forum who have been fighting the draconian decision by Greenwich Council to close their primary school in July.
“As the police formed their line around the school the bailiffs arrived. The journalists were finally let out by the security inside the school to the hysterical screams from Lewisham’s press officer that they would all be arrested for trespass.
“There then followed a 2-hour standoff. We kept up our chants and even sang songs courtesy of Goldsmiths students’ musical accompaniment. Finally the cops realized that they couldn’t physically remove us from the roof and they left, followed swiftly by the bailiffs.”
In Glasgow, 22 schools are threatened with closure, as part of a council plan to plug a £6 million overspend. Parents previously occupied the school for a week in April, but have returned as part of the ongoing Save our Schools campaign. The day after the re-occupation, parents formed a picket line to trap vans which had arrived to take away materials. Occupiers refused to allow the vans to leave until all materials had been returned, and they were able to inspect each van. The council initially tried to intimidate picketers with a surveillance van, but eventually gave in, and returned the school materials.
School occupations have recently been effective in preventing closures in Edinburgh. While it looks ever more likely that similar cuts will intensify in the coming months and years, the occupations continue.
The Wynford occupiers can be contacted via Nikki Rathmill on 07894 123721. Please send messages of solidarity, and look for updates on http://sosglasgow.wordpress.com. The Lewisham occupiers can be contacted on 07946 541331 and have a Facebook group, Hands off Lewisham Bridge Primary School.