On Saturday 16th June, parents, teachers and concerned members of the community will be meeting in the town centre in opposition to the severe threat to education in Crawley posed by the cuts planned at Thomas Bennett Community College.
I don't think there are many people left who are unaware that Crawley's schools are critically underfunded. Despite the commitments of our Conservative MP, they continue to struggle while the Conservative Government gambled away millions on their failed Free School experiment and recently announcement of £50m for new Grammar Schools, even though every study shows they don't add anything to overall levels of education.
Even so, the cuts planned at Thomas Bennett go beyond that of other local schools. While the academy chain has blamed the school's bad PFI deal for draining their resources, a deal negotiated by our Conservative MP when he ran West Sussex County Council, Thomas Bennett is not the only school in Crawley with such a bad deal and other schools are not proposing cuts of this scale.
Why? Clearly most schools are making different choices about what they do to tackle their funding deficit. Unfortunately, as an academy we can't scrutinise Thomas Bennett's budget in the way we can with local authority run schools, we don't get consulted in the same way and local representatives can't intervene to protect the interests of local kids. No, academisation has allowed closed groups to set up empires of schools paid for out of taxes and yet unaccountable to taxpayers.
For Crawley these cuts could be the tip of the iceberg. TKAT, the academy chain running Thomas Bennett, operate seven of Crawley's schools. If we allow the cuts to occur at one school we're leaving the door open for similar cuts across the board.
That's why we need residents to join with us on the 16th June to make it clear what the town expects from its schools and for its children, not just because it's the right thing to do for them but because without a well-educated population to deliver the future prosperity of our country, everyone will suffer.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council