South London headteacher says teachers missing school because of mouldy homes and kids making 2-hour journeys to school

By Staff

Teachers are having to take time off school because they’re living in damp and mouldy homes, a South London headteacher has revealed. Dean Gordon, who leads two primary schools in Lewisham, South East London said some of his staff were missing work because of serious problems in their properties, including the loss of water and heating.

Mr Gordon, head of the Phoenix Federation, is one of 11 headteachers in the borough to have signed an open letter to the council saying that poor housing is having a ‘detrimental impact’ on the education of kids and urging it to treat housing in the borough as an ‘emergency issue.’

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) following a rally outside the council’s offices in Catford on Friday (March 1), he said: “I’ve never seen so many families worried about where they live. The mould, the leaking, the damp conditions, children being ill.

READ MORE: Homeless mum waiting for council home for six years ‘pushed to back of queue’ after split from husband

“I even have teachers who take time off because they’ve got no heating. They’ve got no water. There’s damp, there’s mould. It impacts everybody.”

He added: “We have a number of children who are placed in temporary accommodation and that unsettles them because it’s not a very normal place to live. They move so far away from home: it takes them longer to get to school.

“They get to school late and those who get there early have to leave at six o’clock in the morning. It’s taking them two hours, a number of buses, [a] train.”

Dr Aaminah Verity, who works as a GP in Deptford, joined teachers, pupils and residents at the demonstration outside the council’s offices. Dr Verity said she was seeing patients come to her surgery everyday with health problems linked to poor housing.

She said: “We’re seeing people with really severe anxiety and depression often linked to stress about their housing situation, but then also respiratory conditions, so asthma, COPD because of the mould people are living with, skin conditions.

“The temporary accommodation situation is really out of control. We see lots of people unable to come to appointments because they’re getting moved all over the place. It’s very difficult for us to be able to provide care when they’re so far away.”

Before the rally, Lewisham Citizens and Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network held an assembly at Rushey Green Primary School with candidates from the Labour Party and the Green Party for the upcoming Lewisham mayoral by-election.

Both candidates were asked if they would commit to providing free internet to families in temporary accommodation during the assembly. Front-runner Brenda Dacres, Labour’s candidate, said she was working towards it. Michael Herron, Green Party candidate, said he would commit to it.

Dacres added: “I don’t know the background of what’s necessarily needed. That’s what I want to go away and look into to see what we can do that’s achievable, rather than just say yes now. I work in IT that’s why I’ve got some questions about what we’ve got to do.”

As of autumn 2023, there were 2,651 families from Lewisham in temporary accommodation and 3,808 children according to figures compiled by the All Party Parliamentary Group on households in temporary accommodation.

Got a story? Email [email protected].

Don’t miss out on the biggest local stories. Sign up to our MySouthLondon newsletter HERE for all the latest daily news and more.

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *