Around 300 people met in South Gloucestershire yesterday, Thursday, to oppose the Tories’ cuts to school funding.
Rish, a parent in the area, said the meeting was “amazing”.
“We only started organising a few weeks ago,” she told Socialist Worker. “I put a Facebook page together and it’s been growing every day.”
The Tory cuts will snatch £3 billion a year from schools in England by 2020 – if they go ahead. But there’s a whirlwind of opposition and the cuts are politicising people.
Rish said, “Two weeks ago all of this just went over my head. But then you find out more. Do I think we can stop them? Absolutely, and I’m a pessimist.”
Debbie, a parent who chaired the meeting, agreed. “We can do nothing or we can choose to do something,” she told Socialist Worker. “We have had a phenomenal response and this is just the beginning. We can win this.”
Many parents and teachers spoke about how increased stress and low morale is forcing many teachers to leave the profession. George, a student, spoke from the platform about the need to extend the curriculum not cut it back as seven out of ten schools are doing in the South West.
Many were angry about rising class sizes. Several parents spoke movingly about the impact of the cuts on special educational needs provision. Andrea, a parent, said, “Those people in Whitehall don’t care because their kids don’t go to state school.”
Rish fears the impact of the cuts on the most vulnerable. She described one parent whose daughter is suffering with anxiety and may have dyslexia – but hasn’t been assessed due to lack of resources.
“It’s horrific,” she said. “This is a 13 year old child and it could affect her whole future.”
There is growing support for the fightback. The local campaign received 1,500 messages of support in the run-up to the meeting. And at least 40 councillors in the area have said they support it.
There were calls to build local demonstrations and put pressure on local MPs and candidates in the forthcoming local and mayoral elections.
Anne Lemon from the NUT union’s national executive committee called for a local educational summit to broaden the campaign. She said parents and teachers fighting together to reverse these cuts can be a winning formula. She urged parents and teachers to build local action groups in their schools.
NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney encouraged parents and teachers to keep fighting. “You can win this campaign,” he said.
The fight can’t be left to parents alone. Strikes in schools would pile more pressure on the Tories to withdraw the attack. The scale of anger at their cuts means strikers could win widespread support.
One of Rish’s children attends Winterbourne academy, where teachers struck and won over attacks on conditions in 2015. She said, “At that time I wasn’t very sympathetic. But then I met the teachers. One fantastic teacher was in tears. He said, ‘I don’t have time to teach your children.’
“Now, with the danger of losing 20 teachers at the school, would I support them if they struck? I absolutely would.”
Fury at the cuts has seen parents organise campaign groups across England. Around 50 parents, governors and teachers met in Leamington Spa last Wednesday.
John Lockwood told Socialist Worker, “There was a determination to resist.
“There were calls for a national demonstration and a planning meeting of those interested in organising a local march to the Tory MP’s office.”
The government is under real pressure over the cuts. Even the bosses’ Financial Times newspaper came out against them last week.
An editorial said, “A sustained squeeze on school funding seems unlikely to produce the skilled workforce the country will need.”
And several Tory MPs have vowed to vote against the cuts if they remain as they are.
The government is likely to retreat.
But we shouldn’t settle for any compromise that still includes cuts. The Tories won’t back down fully without a fight—let’s give them one.