Up to 150 school students staged a noisy demonstration outside the Learning Trust in Hackney, east London, on Thursday of last week in protest against plans to close their school, Homerton College of Technology.
The Learning Trust, the private company that runs Hackney’s schools, wants to shut the boys’ secondary and instead open a city academy, funded with public money but controlled by private companies.
The Homerton students, with parents and teachers in support, marched through Hackney to the Learning Trust, where a group of around 30 charged in and briefly occupied the lobby, to shouts of “Hands off Hackney schools, close the Learning Trust!”
“We’re trying to save our school from the Learning Trust,” said Homerton student Zeeshan Khan. His friend Azhar Patel added, “How can we trust the Learning Trust?”
Another student explained, “The government, they just want all these rich schools and academies. But in Hackney we’re fine how we are. They can help the school — not shut it down.”
Musa Ravat, whose son goes to Homerton, pointed to his placard, which read “Don’t abuse our children’s future”, saying that because academies were run by businesses, “they worry about their money, not our schools”.
Homerton teachers also joined the protest, but one spoke of “a climate of fear” at the school. “We’re being told not to talk about closure. Teachers are scared to talk. We feel management is siding with the Learning Trust.”
Jane Basset, president of the NUT teachers’ union in Hackney, said, “It’s disgraceful that they’re trying to shut down yet another school. It has a terrible effect on the students.
“An academy will create a two-tier system of education in Hackney. Academies are better funded and are allowed to select students.”
The demonstration was boosted by a contingent of pupils from nearby Haggerston girls’ school protesting against threats to their own school.
The protest marks the start of the fight to keep Homerton open. Other campaigns have shown this can be done.
Last year a campaign by Hackney parents and teachers forced the Learning Trust to drop plans to close Craven Park primary school.
And in neighbouring Islington, teachers and parents recently forced ARK, a charity run by bankers, to pull out of an academy scheme there.
Ken Muller, NUT rep at Islington Green school, told the Hackney demonstrators, “Islington council wanted to close our school down and hand it over to millionaire fat cat bankers.”
But the campaign had won round one, he said. “If you fight like you have done today, you can win too.”
North Westminster school
Teachers at North Westminster school in London, which is to be turned into two academies next year, scored further success last week in their fight against the damage the scheme will cause.
The director of education in Tory-run Westminster council, Phyl Crawford, resigned following criticism of the academies plan and threatened strike action by North Westminster teachers over the closure of one of its three sites. The closure has also been dropped.