Friday, February 02, 2007

Success: New Oak saved !!

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It's great news for all those who have campaigned to prevent the closure of New Oak Primary School that plans to make the forthcoming Oasis Academy at Hengrove a 3 -18 school are to be dropped by Bristol City Council ('3 -18 school bid set to be dropped', Bristol Evening Post, February 2). The saving of New Oak is largely down to the sustained hard campaigning of local people, of all political persuasions and none, like Lorraine Lewis and others, who the Green Party have been very happy to help and support by applying additional political pressure.

I'm glad that council officers will recommend rejection of the 3 -18 plans now that 76% of repondents to the consultation are opposed and look forward to a confirmed, concrete political decision to keep New Oak open. I'm not happy with the position of all those who supported this plan originally though.

Councillor Jos Clarke, perhaps characteristically of many Liberal Democrats, seems now to be facing in contradictory directions. All along she has argued for the so-called educational benefits of the 3 -18 plan and has fronted the council position on New Oak closure. Now that she knows 76% are opposed she is saying she shares her constituents concerns about many aspects of the plan! Is she offering leadership as well as representation to her community or is she just following the trend of local opinion, now that it has been made abundantly clear, because she knows there is an election this spring? What a lack of conviction!

Councillor Clarke also sees fit at this point to pass the buck by saying that she and the council were pressured by central government to make a swift decision. Yes pressure was applied but it is her job and the council's job to lead and represent local opinion and stand up to such pressures in the interests of local democracy. Further lack of conviction.

An 11-18 academy involving the evangelical Christian Oasis Trust is still due to replace Hengrove School and so the Green Party remains concerned about the secondary schooling provided for Knowle, Hengrove and the surrounding areas served. It remains my position that schools should be set up and governed in the interests of children and parents, of all religions and none, and not private individuals, businessess or religions. Academies are not a genuine solution to todays education issues. Greens will continue to campaign for good general schooling which is well and fairly funded for all and which maximises parental and student participation and local community-based power.