John Russell, the Liberal Democrats’ Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham West and Penge, has written a letter to highlight the funding crisis at Forest Hill School, and call on local councillors to help. Here is the text of his letter:

Dear Sir,

I attended the recent meeting of teachers and parents of Forest Hill Boys School that was called to discuss the continuing funding crisis. I was struck by the professionalism of the teachers, and by the fears of parents who believe that their children will suffer because of continuing cuts and future strike days.

Cuts have already been imposed on this school. Staffing costs have been reduced by £1.3 million, 19 non-classroom support staff have been made redundant, 4 classroom-based support staff are to be let go, and there is a proposal to reduce the number of teachers by 15.

The likely outcome is that the remaining teachers will have longer working hours and increased responsibilities.

Forest Hill School is well known for the high quality of its teaching, as well as for the care and attention it shows to every pupil. When Lewisham has the worst GCSE outcomes of any London Borough, it is depressing to see such an excellent school suffering in this way.

These cuts affect all aspects of school life, including: support staff, lunch time playground provision, arts provision, and the lifeblood of the school. I’m concerned by the proposed cuts to the teaching of English as an Additional Language. To my mind, cutting this service could count as indirect discrimination and there may be grounds for challenge.

I am aware that Lewisham council is under its own financial pressures. They also don’t want to give a message to local schools that the council can bail them out of future financial difficulties. But doing nothing – as appears to be the council’s stated position – is not a viable option.

The longer this crisis continues the worse it will become. Teachers will leave, whilst parents will start to look elsewhere. The cumulative results could be devastating.

Other options are available and have been used by local authorities facing similar problems. Debt can be refinanced on longer terms. Prudential borrowing can be used to secure new lending.

Local councillors need to call for action to resolve this crisis and to challenge Lewisham Council’s handling of this issue.

Kind regards,

John Russell

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham West and Penge.

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