Hundreds of pupils who marched to stop their school becoming an academy have been given a lesson in Lewisham politics – after their protests were ignored.
Around 400 Sedgehill School students, parents and staff picketed Catford town hall last week, handing in a 1,500-signature petition urging councillors not to remove the current governors and replace them with an interim board.
But Lewisham Council has now applied to the Secretary of State for Education to do just that, arguing that the school – which was judged by Ofsted inspectors as requiring improvement – needs to take action to improve its results.
The council is in talks with the head teacher of Bethnal Green Academy to go into a long-term partnership with Sedgehill, which would require the Catford school to consult on becoming an academy.
But campaigners – who have inundated News Shopper with messages of support for the current leadership team – argue that Sedgehill is improving and academy status would not necessarily mean better results.
Branch secretary of Lewisham NUT Martin Powell-Davies, who has announced he will stand for election next year, said union members from Sedgehill, along with Prendergast schools and Bonus Pastor – which may also become academies – would now be officially balloted for strike action in the New Year.
He said many parents had been shocked their campaign was ignored, saying: “The first battle has been lost but it’s only the first part of the war.
“The focus is now going to change to who are these new board members and what are their plans?
“The school community will make it very clear to the board that they don’t want them coming in and undoing all the good work which has been done at the school.”
Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: “It is clear that people feel very strongly about the future of Sedgehill School – and rightly so. I passionately believe that we must do all we can to give our young people the very best chances to succeed in school and in later life.
“That’s why I want this council to take firm and decisive action whenever we are confronted with evidence that shows us very clearly that our young people are being failed. And I am very clear that is what is happening at Sedgehill School now and has been for a period of years.”
“Of course there are some fantastic success stories and many Sedgehill pupils are achieving great things and I congratulate those that are. But I am all too aware that the school could be doing much more, for many more.
“Last year more than a whole class of students who had entered the school in year 7 at a level where we might reasonably expect them to go on to achieve five good GCSE passes including English and Maths, failed to make that grade. To see one young person failing to get the grades is bad enough, but to see that many is absolutely heart-breaking.”