Socialist Worker

Activists say, we’re going to teach the Tories a lesson over school funding cuts

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2553

Forest Hill strikers are at the forefront of fighting education funding cuts

Forest Hill strikers are at the forefront of fighting education funding cuts (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Tories are in crisis over their planned education cuts. The first copy of the Evening Standard newspaper edited by former chancellor George Osborne last week ran a front page on the crisis.

It said Tories were urging Theresa May to abandon the cuts plan before the general election.

And the first of a series of protests against the cuts was set to take place this Saturday in Lancaster. More regional protests are planned over the coming weeks (see below).

Many schools face cuts even before the Tories’ “fair funding formula” has come into effect. But there is also resistance.

NUT union members at Forest Hill School in south London struck for the seventh time on Wednesday of last week.

Labour-run Lewisham council wants the school to push through a £1.3 million cuts package that would transform the school.

Danielle and Lucia are teachers in performing arts. “We have five clubs at the moment, but we’re looking at that changing to one,” said Danielle.

“We currently pay for a professional breakdancer to come into the school—it’s only about £400 a year. But we won’t be able to afford that anymore.”

Lucia added, “A lot of people are leaving—it’s driving people out.”

The cuts mean teachers would be expected to teach between three and four hours more a week. This means less time for preparation, marking and contacting parents.

Job

As striker Rebecca said, “I don’t think we’ll be able to do the job. I can’t be the teacher I want to be.”

Danielle said the most vulnerable children would suffer most. “We have children from Syria who can’t speak English,” she said.

“The number of children here who need English as an Additional Language support is higher than average. Yet we only have one person providing it.

“Children with special educational needs are having support cut too. This will have a lifelong impact.”

The school spends around 10 percent of its budget financing a Private Finance Initiative debt.

Many strikers want the council to step in and help to renegotiate the debt. Maths teacher Chelston said, “That money should be going into the school.

“For it to be going to private firms is outrageous.”

NUT members have called nine more days of strikes. NUT members at Plumstead Manor School, in nearby Greenwich, also plan strikes on 16, 17, 24 and 25 May.

The cuts are a national issue and unions must have a national response.

As Rachel put it, “My concern is that this is happening before the funding formula cuts come in. I think it has to come to national strikes.”


Show your support for Forest Hill School strikers

  • The next planned walkouts are 16, 24, 25 May and 6, 14, 15, 20, 28 and 29 June
  • Public meeting – Fight the cuts at Forest Hill School – Thursday 11 May, 7pm, Forest Hill Methodist Church, SE23 2DS
  • Send messages of support to membsec@lewisham.nut.org.uk

Protest to stop the cuts

Protests against school funding cuts are planned in Bristol, Sheffield, Manchester and Leamington on Saturday 20 May.

Another is organised in Newcastle for the following Saturday.

In London, teachers and parents plan to protest at Old Palace Yard near parliament on Thursday 18 May.

In Bristol, parents have helped to distribute around 20,000 leaflets to schools to publicise the protest.

An anti-cuts meeting was set to take place in the constituency of the city’s only Tory MP on Thursday of this week.

Last week some 300 people met in Worthing, Sussex, to oppose the cuts.

Parents have also called a day of protests on Friday 26 May, before schools finish for half term.


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