Thursday 30 January 2014

Sulivan Primary School Deserves Better Than This

It was the Full Council Meeting last night. Nearly all of the meeting was taken up with H&F Conservatives' highly controversial decision to close Sulivan Primary School - recently graded the 233rd best out 16,884 in the country. My Labour colleagues and I urged all councillors to vote for this "motion":

"This Council congratulates Sulivan Primary School on the recognition received from both Boris Johnson, the London Mayor and David Laws MP, the Minister of State for Schools, in respect of the school’s excellent academic results. The Council supports the addition of a high quality secondary school in the south of the Borough but agrees that the excellent Sulivan Primary School should remain open and a new site found for the free school that does not involve cannibalising Sulivan Primary School".

Cllr. Georgie Cooney (Con), the Cabinet Member for Education moved a wrecking amendment which changed the subject and removed any reference to agreeing "Sulivan Primary School should remain open". That was voted through by a majority of Conservative councillors.

Then there was another vote on Sulivan Primary School. As reported, the Sulivan School closure has been called into the Borough's Education and Children's Services Select Committee.  This is the first time a call-in has ever been issued in the history of H&F Council. But Conservative councillors decided to book the meeting at a highly unusual start time of 10.00am next Wednesday morning. To put that in perspective, no Select Committee meetings ever happen at 10.00am. They're always at 7.00pm so the public and councillors can easily attend. Now consider that that Administration broke with long-standing custom and practice and did not ask Opposition councillors or co-opted committee members if this time or date would be suitable. Instead, they just went ahead and announced it after, I am reliably informed, they had consulted with enough Conservative committee members to ensure the committee would be quorate. So it is evident that they are deliberately trying to make it difficult for the teachers, parents and governors to attend and are clearly trying and fix the vote by also making it hard for opposition councillors and co-opted committee members to attend and vote. The Chair of the School's governors formally complained. Her request to change the timing was clearly reasonable. My fellow Labour councillors called a vote and presented the wording below.

Cllr. Stephen Hamilton (Con) a school governor at Sulivan Primary School had earlier expressed support for our first motion so we were all more than a little surprised when he slunk out of the room and failed to argue for or vote in favour of this:

"The Council notes with concern the email sent at 1.38pm today by the Chair of Governors, Sulivan Primary School to the Administration, which reads.

“I would like to formally register my complaint to the Council for the timing of the meeting. I have looked back over Council meetings and I have struggled to find any examples of Council meetings scheduled for the morning. I put it to you that this time has been selected specifically to make it difficult for both members of the Committee and the public to attend the meeting.  I would ask you to consider postponing the date and time, selecting a new date in the evening, as has always been the practice by the Council, when its officers, councillors and the public, have more opportunity of attending.  Do you think this would be a more democratic approach? I also would have appreciated the courtesy of an email to the Governing Body and the Head Teacher at Sulivan, informing us of the meeting, given the meeting has been called to discuss Sulivan Primary.  Another example of an unjust and at worst, flawed consultation process and administration by the Council. I hope you will consider my request and advise me of the date when the meeting will be rescheduled.”

Sewing as school's
future is debated
The Council urges Cllr. Donald Johnson, (Con) the committee chair, Cllr. Tom Crofts (Con) , Cllr. Charlie Dewhirst (Con), Cllr. Belinda Donovan (Con), Cllr Harry Phibbs (Con), Cllr. Matt Thorley (Con) to work with opposition and co-opted members of the Education and Children’s Services Select Committee in recognising the reasonable nature of this request, to consult with governors of Sulivan Primary School and other stakeholders to agree a more suitable time and date for the issues raised in the call-in to be properly considered".

The meeting finished late. Those members of the public that attended were very disappointed. Conservative councillors appeared uninterested in making any worthwhile points about Sulivan Primary School. Cllr. Helen Binmore (Con), the Cabinet Member for Children's Services didn't turn up despite being one of the people that engineered the closure. Many people complained that the Borough's Deputy Mayor Cllr. Adronie Alford (Con) was apparently engaged in embroidering a piece of cloth with what a member of the public identified as a picture of a cheetah. She was clearly uninterested in any of the facts presented about the school but voted with her Conservative colleagues on the school's future at every point throughout the evening.

Meanwhile, here are some children from Sulivan Primary School singing "Save Our Sulivan". They deserve better than this.

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