Socialist Worker

Big schools protests pledge resistance to Tory education funding cuts

Issue No. 2555

Part of the 5,000 strong march against school funding cuts in Bristol

Part of the 5,000 strong march against school funding cuts in Bristol (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Anger at Theresa May's plan to slash billions from schools' budgets burst onto the streets of Bristol today,Saturday.

Over 5,000 parents, pupils, teachers and their supporters joined a demonstration organised by the NUT teachers' union and parents' groups.

They were marching against Tories’ “fair funding” plans that would snatch £3 billion from schools in England by 2020.

Chants of “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” rang out as the march made its way through the city centre.

Protests also took place in Sheffield and Manchester. At least 200 people from more than 32 schools marched in Manchester chanting “Save our schools, save our teachers.” They folllow a march of 2,000 in Lancaster last Saturday.

And around 150 people braved the pouring rain in central London to rally against education cuts last Thursday.

Local NUT union groups had called the event. Protesters weren’t fooled by Theresa May’s pledge to put £4 billion into schools.

NUT national executive member Stefan Simms told Socialist Worker that £3 billion of the money had “already been spent”.

Ellie is the chair of the London Young Teachers Network. “At my school we’ve already lost a full time teacher, a teaching assistant and bilingual support staff,” she told Socialist Worker.

In Sheffiled Saturday shoppers clapped in support a protesters sang “if you're defending education clap your hands".

Parent joined the march in Bristol with her two children. “My children will suffer if these cuts go through,” she told Socialist Worker.

“The number of bigger classes will get even higher, there’ll be fewer teachers and less after school clubs.

Rely

“My daughter goes to after schools clubs, but what will people do if they go? Working people rely on them.”

Manchester parent Verity Walker said, “It is going to be harder for my child to get the education they need, there will be less teaching assistants and less support.”

Schools are already in the grip of a funding crisis with 60 percent of secondaries in deficit.

Tony, another parent from Bristol said, “Where we are in Yate two secondary schools have already sent a letter asking parents to set up direct debits for funding.

“They're just taking opportunities away from our children.”

Paula, a parent, told Socialist Worker, “We went along to the local meetings, but this is the first demonstration I've ever been on.”

Parents organised across Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset to build the demonstration. Outrage at the scale of the Tories' plans is pulling more and more parents into the campaign.

“My daughter is a special education needs student with autism and they've already cut her one to one support,” she added. “Now she can't integrate properly in her classes.”

Anger at the education cuts on the streets of Sheffield

Anger at the education cuts on the streets of Sheffield (Pic: Neil Terry)


Sue Millichap a teacher in Manchester said, “My school is losing £380,000. Staff will lose their jobs, meaning more work for the rest of us, and lessons will be cut”.

School support workers face the brunt of the cuts. Gianna, a school support worker said, “Support staff make a big different to children's education, but lots have already been cut.

“How would these public schools boys know what it's like to be in one of our schools.”

The Tories’ funding cuts are part of a much bigger plan to turn schools into exam factories focusing on “core subjects”.

Lilly, a school student, told Socialist Worker, “I can't take two out of three of the subjects I want for A Levels.

“They don't care about the creative subjects, but that's an important part of education.”

The Tories have tried to quell the growing opposition by claiming in their manifesto that they'll give schools £4 billion more. But they're still pushing through the £3 billion worth of cuts.

Believes

Jon, NUT North Somerset divisional secretary, told Socialist Worker, “No one believes the Tories' pledge. It hasn't dampened the size of the demonstration.

“They still want the cuts—in my area we've got three primary schools facing huge 12 percent cuts.”

At the closing rally in Bristol parent Huw Williams said, “We had a little meeting of 65 people to begin with and now we've got thousands and thousands on the streets.

Other speakers included Winterborne Academy student George and teacher and Bristol mayor Marvin Rees.

“The worst thing is the belief that we can't do anything, but today shows that we can. This is an opportunity.”

These fights on the ground are crucial to building opposition to the Tories and austerity, not a distraction from the general election campaign.

When Huw asked the rally if they wanted to protest on10 June—the Saturday after the general election—a sea of enthusiastic hands shot up.

Huw said, “Even if we have a government that wants to redress this it will come under massive pressure.”

Thanks to Chris Ayton and Jennifer Dunston

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