Socialist Worker

Fightback against school cuts is well under way

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2548

teachers on strike in Lewisham, south east London, last week

teachers on strike in Lewisham, south east London, last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The fight to stop cuts in schools is escalating. Three groups of teachers struck in London last week against funding cuts.

More NUT union members in other schools are balloting for strikes against cuts.

And parents are continuing to organise against the Tories’ so called fair funding formula, which will see schools in England losing £3 billion a year by 2020.

More than 70 people joined a protest in Chesterfield last Saturday, organised by Derbyshire Schools Say No to Education Cuts.

Protester James Eaden said, “We distributed 2,500 flyers and hundreds signed petitions. It was an important start to what will need to be a county-wide campaign to save our schools.”

About 250 had protested in Chester city centre the previous Saturday.

NUT union divisional secretary Greg Foster said the cuts threatened “a shorter week for children, fewer teachers, fewer support staff and fewer subject choices”.

“It is simply not fair to make children suffer for the government’s inability to balance the budget,” he said.

Meetings and protests are taking place across England as parents get organised. Parent Victoria set up a campaign group in Cheshire East.

Morale

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“Teachers’ morale is getting lower every year,” she told Socialist Worker. “People are saying we can’t cut any more.

“The funding formula is a smokescreen for cuts. The more noise we make about this, the better.”

Parent Huw Williams was at a meeting in Bristol on Thursday of last week. “Around 65 parents and school staff met in the Lockleaze/Ashley Down area of Bristol,” he told Socialist Worker.

“Parents signed up to be school contacts for the campaign. We agreed to circulate petitions directed at the local MP, and education minister Justine Greening.”

Activists plan to organise a march in the city. And parents in nearby South Gloucestershire were set to meet on Thursday of this week.

Huw explained that the meeting was organised around five junior schools and one secondary school.

“It is clear we can build a movement which has the potential to mobilise huge numbers of people,” he said. As another Bristol parent put it, “This is a fight we can win and this is just the start.”

Some Labour councillors and MPs have backed local campaigns. This is welcome. Labour councillor Nicole Meardon addressed the rally in Chester along with Chester MP Chris Matheson. Labour councillor Estelle Tincknell spoke at the Bristol meeting.

But Labour councils are among those pushing vicious cuts, including in Lewisham and Hackney in London where the school strikes took place last week. The party should stand up to the Tories’ assault on schools, not go along with it.

The Tories are under pressure over their funding formula. It’s clear that there is widespread support for resistance to it. School unions should coordinate strikes to make the cuts unworkable.


There are no guarantees Sats tests will go

The government is considering scrapping hated Sats tests for six and seven year olds. This follows anger at the tests—and a parent boycott of them last year.

Parents refused to take their children to school on the days of the Sats.

Children and parents gathered outside the Department for Education (DfE) in central London chanting, “No more Sats,” and, “Let kids be kids.”

But the Tories have made no definite promise to get rid of the tests—and if they do go, it won’t be until the early 2020s.

Meanwhile they remain committed to upholding other damaging tests which have nothing to do with education.

Last year nearly half of 11 year olds “failed” Sats tests. The Tories set children up to fail so these “failures” can be used to attack schools—and push more privatisation.

The NUT union said the consultation was “a recognition that our children deserve something better” but that the government is also proposing “changes for the worse for younger age groups”.

The DfE wants baseline testing for early years children. It wants to measure children at five years old so that teachers can then be judged on their “performance” in subsequent years.

This is part of an agenda to attack teachers, and drive down pay and conditions in education.


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