The Occupation Of Croxteth Comprehensive School 1982-1985.

In 2010 I was commissioned by National Museums Liverpool to photograph the key figures involved in the illegal three-year occupation of Croxteth Comprehensive School in 1982. 

This set of portraits were taken in the original school building just weeks before its closure and demolition in July 2010 with the participants pictured in locations directly relating to their involvement in the occupation.

Croxteth is a suburb of Liverpool located approximately six miles north east of the city centre.

Traditionally an area with a scarce population…after the devastation of Liverpool during the Second World War, major housing initiatives were developed.

These developments offered quick and simple solutions but are now well documented, that in many respects, these initiatives were a social disaster.

By 1979 unemployment levels were twice the national average.

The residents of Croxteth had become increasingly aware of the social decline in their neighborhood as well as the continual lack of local services and amenities.  Croxteth had no swimming baths, job centre, bank, police station, leisure facilities or adequate shopping area. The Croxteth residents believed their only asset was the local comprehensive school, which included a youth club that had access to the facilities within the school. 

Therefore when on 10th November 1980 the news of the proposed closure of the school without consultation was announced it came as a huge blow to the local community.

The NUT (National Union of Teachers) insisted on a consultation meeting in early January. This request was agreed but the Chair of the Education Committee, Mike Storey, failed to show up and the meeting produced no further action points. Finally on 28th January 1981 the council voted to close Croxteth Comprehensive School. 

The parents however continued to fight and began to make changes to their campaign tactics with various trips to London including a demonstration outside of the Department of Education and Science and the education office buildings in Liverpool being occupied by 200 demonstrators. Although these activities raised the profile of the campaign, it wasn’t enough to reverse the decision to close the school.

On 13th July 1982 the activists decided to occupy the school from immediate effect. Upon arrival at the school they entered both sites and told the teachers they were occupying the school. The teachers and staff who were generally sympathetic to the cause simply handed over the keys. It was this single event that changed the course of the history of Croxteth Comprehensive School forever.

The occupation immediately sent a wave of excitement throughout the local community and many people who had not previously been involved in the campaign came to the school to offer their support.

From this point on the school was illegally occupied day and night. Parent stayed at the school every night on trampolines in the gymnasium throughout the entire occupation. 

After the initial excitement had died down a decision was made to open a summer school and run activities for young people during the holidays. The success of the summer project led to the school reopening on the first day of the school year in September 1982 - ran solely by parents and volunteer teachers.

Eventually, the political landscape in Liverpool was beginning to shift and the activists astutely recognised that any change could result in an opportunity to influence the reorganisation of education in Liverpool.

The illegal occupation of Croxteth Comprehensive School effectively came to an end on 5th May 1985 when the Labour Party won overall majority of the council. The new leader and deputy leader of the council respectively, gave speeches declaring that Croxteth Comprehensive School would be reinstated with immediate effect and renamed Croxteth Community Comprehensive - or locally as “Croccy Comp”.

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