The Thatcher Crisis Years

1980s politics blog from TV historian Tony McMahon

Croxteth Comprehensive was a school in a working-class area of Liverpool that was threatened with closure in the early 1980s. It became the subject of a long campaign that galvanised the political Left in the city.

In January 1981, Liverpool City Council decided to close Croxteth Comprehensive on the grounds that school numbers were declining. At this time, the council was under the control of a Liberal-Conservative coalition. The reaction from local people was volcanic. The Croxteth Community Action Committee occupied the school buildings and continued the education of children in the area with volunteer teachers. This carried on for the entire 1982/82 academic year.

The campaign was raised in parliament on 22 February 1983 by local MP Bob Parry and the Tories were not amused. Education minister Rhodes Boyson said the school had legally ceased to exist and the parents should “bring to an end the unlawful occupation of the premises of the former Croxteth school”. Parry retorted that the occupation had captured the imagination of Liverpudlians and yet the action committee had been served with a massive rates bill of £27,000.

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Needling the Tories, Parry asked Boyson – wasn’t his party in favour of parents providing schools for their children? This was referring to a right-wing idea popular among right-wing Tories where schooling would be funded through a voucher system. A beleaguered Boyson welcomed potential Labour support for vouchers (which they didn’t support) while pointing out that his ministry hadn’t closed the school – the local council had. Then asserted that parents had already voted with their feet and sent their children to another school before Croxteth had been shut down.

Even Neil Kinnock, Labour leader, felt obliged to weigh in on the side of Croxteth Comprehensive:

“Does the Minister realise that he makes himself look even more incredible than usual by advertising the idea that the Tory party is in favour of choice, while imposing enormous qualifications and restrictions? Have not the parents at Croxteth effectively demonstrated their preference for that school by making enormous sacrifices to provide their children with education at that school?”

Fortunately for the school occupiers, the 1983 local elections saw the Liberal-Conservative coalition tossed out of power and Labour took over. And this was a Labour Party heavily influenced by the Militant Tendency. So, Croxteth was something of a cause celebre. The ‘Crocky Comp’ was duly re-opened. But as they say – no good deed goes unpunished. Just a quarter of a century later – the school closed amidst another local furore.

Croxteth Comprehensive

One thought on “Croxteth Comprehensive – the 1980s campaign

  1. Paul Harnett says:

    Do I remember? I think I was the only qualified teacher there from Sept 1982 until the end of term, when I left as I’d got a paid job at Ruffwood in Kirkby. It was pretty chaotic, with the “Head” not really organising well – I was teaching German one day instead of Maths (my subject!). My favourite memory was one day the alarm went up that the ‘leccy guys were on the school field and going to cut off our supply. They soon changed their mind when they saw tons of kids and volunteers running across the field towards them. Actually I don’t think they wanted to cut us off but had been told to by their bosses. Not sure how much formal education the kids got but invaluable life skills if you ask me. Happy days!

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