Around 300 people packed into a meeting against school funding cuts in south London yesterday, Wednesday.
They were furious at Tory plans to slash schools' money with their new “funding formula”. Lambeth in south London will be the fifth worst hit area in England if the plans go ahead.
Ellie, a parent in the borough, told Socialist Worker, “Parents are already being asked to fund basic school supplies. Both my kids go to great schools—but I don't see how that can carry on with these cuts.”
Ellie helped set up the Lambeth group of Fair Funding for All Schools (FFFAS) around six weeks ago. Since then the group has handed out 15,000 leaflets and now has parent reps in 20 schools.
“Parents are deeply annoyed,” she said. “This campaign is taking off everywhere. The government would be unwise to ignore us.”
Parent rep Natasha was furious at the cuts, which threaten to snatch £773 from every child in the borough. “First they want to take money from the NHS, now they're taking it from schools,” she said.
“It's the two things people care most about. It's just not logical.”
The meeting was one of many taking place as parents set up local groups. Over 100 parents met in Islington, north London on Tuesday of this week with councillors and NUT union activists.
Paul Aitken from Islington NUT said schools are already cancelling trips and visits to museums, while teachers who leave are not being replaced.
Islington council leader Richard Watts said children across Islington are set to lose over £600 each because of the funding formula.
Parents used the school computers after the meeting to email MPs and take part in the consultation on the fair funding formula.
In Lambeth, many rejected Tory attempts to divide schools or to scapegoat children for the lack of funds.
NUT rep and primary school teacher Sara Tomlinson said, “Children with extra needs or who speak other languages are not causing the funding crisis.”
Matt helped to found the national FFFAS. “The government is trying to play us off against each other," he said. “We have to stick together.”
Labour councillor Lib Peck and MP Helen Hayes pledged support. Peck said, “If the government can find money for free schools, they can find money for schools in Lambeth.”
Hayes said, “We're not asking for the earth. We're asking for 1 percent on the education budget.”
Others were a bit more ambitious. Kiri Tunks from the NUT was applauded when she said, “We're the fifth or sixth richest country in the world. What has it come to when we can't fund education?”
She added, “You say we want 1 percent but I want more than that. Good education costs money.”
One parent asked if Labour would back more academies. Hayes replied, “We don't think academies or cutting local councils out of the picture is the best way forward.”
Yet Labour introduced academies. And Labour councils in Durham and Derby are pushing through attacks on teaching assistants (TAs).
Many argued that teaching assistants and other lower paid school staff would be the first to be hit by the cuts. A GMB union organiser described how TAs were being pushed to do the work of teachers or other workers in a bid to save cash.
But parents are determined to resist—and the growing opposition to the funding cuts is boosting their confidence. As parent Kasia put it, “I come from Poland. In 1989 we got rid of a government and people thought it would never happen.
“People have to protest—we can win.”