War has broken out between two schools locked in a desperate battle for survival. In the London Borough of Lambeth, Dick Sheppard and Lilian Bayliss schools have emerged as fierce rivals.

Governors at Dick Sheppard, Tulse Hill, near Brixton, are fighting to overturn the local authority's plans to close it in summer 1995.

In a frantic effort to remain open, governors are to apply for a High Court judicial review. In the course of their campaign, the school has fired off increasingly vitriolic attacks against the rival school.

The reason for their anger is that Lilian Bayliss, in Kennington, in the north of the borough, is to stay open and is receiving thousands of pounds in investment, despite being criticised for 'unsatisfactory teaching standards in a damning report by independent inspectors from Ofsted in April.

Lambeth wants to close the Dick Sheppard school because there are surplus places in the borough and the school's attendance roll has been falling every year.

The authority made its final decision in July after the council's own inspection team produced a report which criticised the levels of achievement at Dick Sheppard.

Irene Hawkins, chair of the governors, said: 'We have a battle on our hands. What justification can there be for closing our school while one that has failed an Ofsted report remains open.'

She described a recent announcement by Lambeth's education department of its intention to spend pounds 333,000 to 'improve teachers skills and increase the proportion of effective teachers at Lilian Bayliss as 'a kick in the teeth.

'Lilian Bayliss has been declared failing in its delivery of education, We are feeling battered and betrayed. But we have the parents behind us and someone has to fight this.

Greta Akenpenye, head teacher at Lilian Bayliss reacted with irritation: 'The Governors have discussed this issue. We do not understand where Lilian Bayliss comes into the Dick Sheppard argument.'

The Ofsted report criticised teaching standards, and singled out disruptive behaviour, truancy and poor punctuality, but praised the head teacher for

her management style.

Teachers say the report did not give a valid picture of the school. 'The Ofsted report is not relevant, it came long after Lambeth had made its decision to close Dick Sheppard, said Ms Akenpenye.

'We do not feel we have a right to comment about Dick Sheppard and they have no right to criticise us.

A group of parents at Dick Sheppard have also launched a campaign to stop the closure. Both schools have broken up for the summer holidays, but as the corridors fell silent the Dick Sheppard campaigners were marshalling an army of mothers and fathers. They cannot afford to let the campaign lose momentum.

In September Lambeth is sending no new first year pupils to Dick Sheppard. The school will be left with only three years of pupils; second, third and fourth. Eventually these remaining pupils will be moved to other schools.

If the governors at Dick Sheppard are granted the right to a judicial review, their case could set a legal precedent. They are not only challenging Lambeth council, but also the Department for Education, who approved the authority's decision.

Dick Sheppard is also waiting for an Ofsted report into its own educational standards, due to be published as the new term begins.

Mrs Hawkins insists the inspectors will be sympathetic: 'The inspectors understand that if our rolls have slipped and parents this year did not opt for Dick Sheppard, it is for the obvious reason that we are existing under the threat of closure.

'We are blighted by the council's decision. We have a wonderful site, with playing fields and our own swimming pool. And that is what the authority is after - our prime land.

While Mrs Hawkins has parents behind her, she has not been able to summon support from the education spokesmen on any of the three main parties on Lambeth's hung council.

MOTHER TURNS TO COURT

A mother of six is taking legal action against Lambeth Borough Council over its plans to close Dick Sheppard school.

The High Court challenge will be made in the names of Wendy Baker's two children, Malcolm, 14, and David, 11. It is a separate action to the request for a judicial review by the school governors.

Mrs Baker, from Brixton, wanted to send David to Dick Sheppard where Malcolm and his brother Darren, 15, are pupils.

When Lambeth decided to close it, Mrs Baker was allocated a place for David at Lilian Bayliss which she turned down.

'Lillian Bayliss has been found to be failing. I want my boy to go to a school which has been passed by Ofsted.'

She has also been forced to look for a place at another school for Malcolm. With Dick Sheppard facing closure in 1995 he would have never been able to finish his GCSEs there.

'The Government makes a big deal about parental choice, then agrees to close your school - it is a farce.'

(Photograph omitted)

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