Socialist Worker

It’s right to fight the Tories as ‘Big School Assembly’ against cuts draws huge crowd

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2556

Children, parents, teachers and more attended the Big School Assembly in Mile End Park

Children, parents, teachers and more attended the Big School Assembly in Mile End Park (Pic: Guy Smallman)


More than 1,000 people gathered in Mile End Park in east London this evening, Wednesday, in a fantastic show of opposition to school funding cuts.

Children, parents, teachers, support workers, governors, grandparents and local residents joined the rally in the borough of Tower Hamlets, dubbed a Big School Assembly.

Many people were angry that the cuts are hitting poor areas hardest. Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs in London.

Deprived

Primary school teacher Samia told Socialist Worker, "Theresa May is taking away opportunities from children in a deprived area. I'm from a deprived family, I'm a council house kid. I benefited from opportunities in education.

"My brother is 17 and he has none of the chances that I had. It's not fair."

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Parent Sumiko agreed. "My daughter is in reception," she told Socialist Worker. "She'll be in year one from next year and there are things provided for her now that might not be there.

"I want to make sure people don't vote Tory. They pick on the weakest in society - we always get the most cuts. I'm really angry and I'm trying to do what I can to make a stand."
Big groups of school workers came with homemade banners spelling out how the cuts would hit their school.

Tej Stride, a head teacher at an infant school, said her school had formed a cluster with a primary and secondary to fight the cuts. "We brought a coachload here and other people walked too," she told Socialist Worker.

"This turnout is testimony to the strength of feeling against the cuts."

She explained the impact the cuts would have on children. "It will impact on core provision, additional support children need and enrichment activities that families can't afford," she said. "Lack of money will mean less training for teachers so we don't develop and learn.

"Children come to our schools testing way below the national average but they leave at or above average. We can produce those outcomes because of money."

Teacher Frank added, "A therapist used to come to our school every Friday to work with the children, but we can't afford him anymore.

"He was like a ray of sunshine. The kids will be really affected by it."

Parent Linda said, "Subjects are already being cut - such as art and music. Some subjects won't be there for children to take at GCSE. Teachers are stressed because class sizes are going up."

May has claimed the Tories are putting unprecedented amounts of money into education. The Tory manifesto pledged £4 billion - by 2022. NUT union national executive member Alex Kenny said the pledges for more money were "smoke and mirrors".

"It doesn't address the crisis schools are facing now," he said. "These are still cuts in real terms."

Strikes

People were clear that the money's there to properly fund education. Every school worker, in the NUT and Unison unions, said when asked that they would back strikes if they were called to stop the cuts.

Unison nursery school teacher Rubena said, "I would definitely support a strike. We're all with the union."

But many also focused on voting the Tories out on 8 June to defend education.

As Samia said, "If we vote Labour we can possibly stop the cuts. But the media is just mudslinging at Jeremy Corbyn. If we spent less money on other things such as warfare, maybe we might save a little bit."

The huge turnout shows that it's absolutely right to keep on taking to the streets to fight the Tories, in the face of pressure to call off campaigning after the terrorist atrocity in Manchester on Monday. The mood against May should not be wasted - and more mobilisations can shift the wider mood in society too.

As Sumiko said, "My husband was asking what difference it would make coming to a protest. But you never know. It can be like a ripple on a lake - you don't know what it will lead to."


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