Ian Crosson reports:
Last Tuesday (24 March) there was a lively lobby of the governing body of Lewisham and Southwark College outside the Lewisham Way site. The lobby was called to protest against a £7m cut to the staff budget, which is largely the result of the massive national funding cuts to adult education. The UCU branch at the college believe that 175 jobs might be lost by the end of the summer term. This would result in a huge cut in provision and support for students in an area with high unemployment, especially amongst the black and ethnic minority community. It is also believed that the one of the college sites in Camberwell could be at risk of closure as well.
The lobby was about 40-strong and was made up of staff, students and people from the local People’s Assembly, Lewisham Trades Council, a TUSC candidate – Lynne Chamberlain – who works at the nearby Greenwich Community College and people from Lewisham People before Profit and Lewisham SWP.
Some students from the Performing Arts department made fantastic speeches about the importance of the college to them and performed a dance of resistance to the cuts.
A local UCU rep said “We find the prospect of these cuts truly horrifying. We don’t know the full details as yet but we fear that many courses will go and students will have far less access to support than before. It further diminishes educational opportunities in the local boroughs and will be devastating in terms of job losses.”
A community campaign has been set up called “Spread the Knowledge, Save our College!”, which is a mixture of staff and local campaigners.
One of the local MPs, Joan Ruddock, has backed an Early Day Motion opposing cuts to adult education and it is hoped that the other local MPs in Lewisham and Southwark will sign up – the campaign hopes to make contact with the MPs shortly.
Lewisham and Southwark colleges merged in August 2012 as a means of helping Southwark College, which faced huge financial problems. The newly merged college was rated inadequate in an Ofsted inspection in November 2013 and a new interim Principal was brought in a few months later.
The community campaign and lobby have helped to raise the morale and confidence of staff in the college to fight these appalling cuts.
A protest has been called for Weds 15th April at 5pm outside the Lewisham Way site to keep up the pressure.
Send messages of support to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The community campaign can be contacted at: email@example.com