|"Team Sulivan" Turn Out in Force at Town Hall|
Parents fighting to save Fulham school make voices heard at council meeting
Parents and local residents fighting to save Sulivan Primary School in Fulham's Peterborough Road turned out in force at Hammersmith Town Hall last night for Hammersmith and Fulham Council's Cabinet meeting on Monday September 2.
This morning the group are celebrating after achieving their aim of speaking at the meeting. Here is their first report on events at the Town Hall:
" Last night was the first night of in-person lobbying to save Sulivan School. Earlier in the week we learned that the Cabinet would not hear our deputation question on extension of the consultation period. This was obviously greatly annoying but not a deterrent to the team of supporters for Sulivan School – we all went anyway and insisted on being heard.
" Around 5:30, over 100 parents and their children crowded into the front entry of the Town Hall. We learned that the Cabinet meeting had to be moved – they are open to the public, so the public has the right to attend – however the room was too small and once they saw we were there a new larger room had to be found.
"While they organised that we took photos and traded stories and had a brilliant time together. One of the nice things about having this big in person gathering is that some of the people from Twitter finally got to meet one another in person if they had not met yet.
" And it was very heartening to see that so many parts of the community had come out to support — there were parents from other schools from around the borough, staff from other schools, members of the Save Our Hospitals campaign (who tried to help us sing!) and more.
" The crowd was finally led into the meeting room, but we had to stop halfway because the room would only hold 70 people – but finally they were able to arrange to let us all in. It was packed, every seat taken, every bit of the side and back walls were stacked full of people dressed in green.
" The meeting started with the Leader Cllr Botterill saying that they had indicated they would not respond to the Deputation, but that they were not going to tell all of us to just leave at that point and said that we could have five minutes of their time.
" We ended up making representations for a bit longer than that. Donna Fine, the woman who presented the Deputation Question, stood and spoke eloquently about the timing of the consultation – it was not long enough and was also badly timed. At this point parents were just returning and teachers should be concentrating on settling children in and learning – not on saving the school and on saving their jobs.
" Cllr Needham also said that it was poor timing because of emphasis on attendance and the requirement for people to take children on holiday ONLY during non-term time (you can get fined by the LA if you travel in term time).
" The Leader and Education Member stood their ground, saying that they extended the consultation specifically because it was over summer – which didn’t address the point of why it was timed for a summer start. Cllr Cowan indicated that a certain level of cynicism existed because of this, and that the way to remedy further cynicism from developing was to a) provide reasons for this timing and b) to extend the consultation as a consequence. Neither happened.
" The discussion was punctuated by loud roars of applause and the occasional communal ‘hiss’ but overall the meeting was well mannered and good spirited. It was an introduction to the process for many who had not been in such meetings, and provided us all a chance to get to know the ‘context’ and the people involved in the decision making. Those people looked distinctly uncomfortable."
You can read updates on last night's events at the campaign website.
This protest will now be followed by two public meetings taking place at New King's School this Thursday September 5 at 6.30pm and Sulivan School on Tuesday September 10 at 6pm.
The campaign to save the Fulham school began after Hammersmith and Fulham Council asked people for their views on a proposal to amalgamate two small primary schools in Fulham - Sulivan and New King's - which the council says would "create a combined school with better facilities, offering a richer educational experience".
The council's announcement made it clear the proposal would mean using the New King's site on New King's Road, saying it would provide up to £2 million to redesign and re-equip it with the latest teaching facilities.
This, says the council would have the "added benefit" of releasing the Sulivan school site to be used by Fulham Boys Free School. This school has been given the go ahead by the Government to offer 120 secondary places per year, but has been forced to postpone its proposed opening this September because it has not found a suitable site.
The council claims that both New King’s and Sulivan in Peterborough Road struggle with small pupil numbers, taking only 75 pupils per year between them, but the campaigners accuse it of using old figures and say that both nursery and reception classes are full.
They also point that Sulivan has lovely grounds including large play areas and an outdoor science laboratory, while New King's has only a small tarmac playground on New King's Road.
And they say on the Save Sulivan School Facebook page saying: " Sulivan is a community school that students past and present love and are proud of. Please join us in trying to save it."
The campaigners are also asking local people to make their voices heard by completing the online questionnaire and attending the public meetings.
The detailed consultation document and the online response form is here on the council website: www.lbhf.gov.uk/fulhamschools.
September 3, 2013