MORE than a thousand parents, teachers, heads and support staff converged on Westminster on Tuesday to lobby MPs on school funding.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner warned at a rally that teachers are turning to food banks to feed their families. Rayner said: ‘It’s an absolute tragedy that we have headteachers now having to run marathons where they used to run them for charity to give funds to their school.
‘It’s really devastating when we have letters going home to parents asking them to provide what the state should provide within our education system. It’s disappointing that so many teachers have had to leave the profession because of the strain that they have been put under. It’s disappointing you’ve had to write those letters to parents.’
She added: ‘I’ve had letters from teachers in absolute despair that they have had to leave the profession because they can’t even feed their own (children), they have had to use food banks and they can’t feed their own families.’
Other speakers at the rally in support of the lobby, organised by the school cuts campaign, were shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable. The shadow chancellor told the rally that a Labour government would provide ‘education from cradle to grave, free at the point of need.’ He said: ‘We need to join forces across Parliament. We cannot stand by and sell the future of our children.’
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘We welcome the education secretary’s commitment to a new formula to address the postcode lottery in school funding. But slicing up the cake more evenly cannot disguise the fact that the cake is not big enough in the first place.’
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: ‘We need about £2bn just to stand still.’ National Education Union (NEU) joint general secretary Mary Bousted told News Line: ‘Today is to put pressure on the government to fund our schools properly.
‘The government says it is funding our schools properly but there are more pupils and funding is not in line with inflation. We want the government to reverse the £2bn real-terms cuts in education. We want schools funded properly so that they can educate pupils to prepare for working life in the 21st century.
‘Because of the schools funding campaign, nearly 800,000 changed their votes in the last weeks of the general election. We know the £1.3bn the Tories put into schools was because of our campaign. But we need all the cuts to be restored.’
Somerset NEU branch secretary Clare Kellett said: ‘In Somerset we are dealing with school budgets cut to the bone. Teachers and support staff are being cut. It’s not just in the classrooms – it’s office staff, libraries staff and matrons. From the children’s point of view, when they come back to school in September they may find libraries closed, that half of teachers have left and no teaching assistants in the classroom.
‘When the government says it is putting more money in schools than before, it’s not enough. There are more kids and more costs. The funding doesn’t keep up with inflation. In 2010, the UK spent 5.8% of GDP on education. Today, it only spends 4.2% of GDP. Today’s rally and lobby are the first step. We are asking all the MPs to write to the Chancellor and ask for more money for schools in the Budget.
‘If we don’t get the money, industrial action will always be the option. The important thing about today is that the people involved come from across the spectrum of the education world – leaders, teachers, parents, support staff are all here talking to MPs.’
Dudley NEU member Palvinder Bains said: ‘I’m against all these cuts in education. They’ve got to stop. Education is the future, without it there is very little future. Education is needed for the economy, for the country to do well. We want to make sure the MPs hear what we have to say. They have to make education the number one priority.
‘Chancellor Phillip Hammond needs to release more money for education because we’ve had so many cuts this year. If we don’t get more money, we will have to take strike action. We have to do whatever it takes to fund education.’
Gill Goodswen, NUT past president, said: ‘I do case work locally now and am chair of governors at a 3-16 school in Kirklees. I’m here today to stand up for schools to be properly funded and teachers properly supported.’
Tamsin Higgs, a parent campaigner from north Devon, told News Line: ‘I’m here with my three children today. We came to meet with our MP and to present the concerns of parents in my constituency. We’re lobbying for an increased budget for the whole of the education system. My feeling when I met my MP was there is not going to be any dramatic change. I’m in favour of a change of government.’
NEU member Claire Doherty said: ‘I’m a teacher in Enfield. I’m here seeing our MPs so we can stand together and say we want our schools properly funded so that every child gets the opportunities they deserve. Parents, teachers and staff are taking action together. In Enfield, we’ve had leafleting, campaigns and meetings. We spoke to the public. We’ll carry on until schools are properly funded.’
Margaret Tyson from Liverpool said: ‘I’m a grandmother. I’ve come with my CLP. We’re going to meet MPs in the House of Commons to demand better facilities for the kids, make university education free again as it used to be, and smaller classes in schools. Teachers are taking food and clothes into schools for their pupils. Schools are expected by the Conservative government to buy sanitary towels and tampons for pupils whose families can’t afford them.
‘This Tory government has to go. We want to end austerity. We have to fight for the NHS as well as education. The government is selling off the NHS by stealth. We had a bus strike in Merseyside yesterday. And there have been rail strikes because they want to get rid of the guard. We need a general strike. If not, there will be riots again.’
Anne Leech, Surrey NEU equalities rep teaches in Surrey and lives in Hampshire. She told News Line: ‘My (East Hampshire) Tory MP Damien Hinds refused to see me this morning. This was despite him making an appointment to see me a week ago. He wouldn’t even send a member of staff to take some material on school cuts from me. It’s disrespectful. I’m concerned about small schools in the countryside facing huge budget cuts of between £2,000 and £90,000 by 2020.
‘We want our children to be educated properly not on the cheap. I wonder where all the money for academisation has come from. It seems to be a deliberate privatisation policy. Parents are behind us.’
University worker George Hunt from Nunthorpe near Middlesbrough, said: ‘I’m here because the cuts affect my son’s school. As a parent, I want my kids to have access to the best state education that they can. The cuts over the next three years would impact on staffing levels. And at a small school that would create problems. I’d support the unions taking industrial action. I’d support a general strike to get rid of this Tory government.’
Donna Jackson said: ‘I’m here as a parent due to the school cuts already and further school cuts.
‘I want fairer funding. Some schools get more money than others. I’m from Wokingham which is one of the lowest funded in the country. Our schools are really struggling. They’ve had to cut support staff hours, there are less teaching assistants and special needs staff.
‘Parents have to pay voluntary contributions. We’ve been paying for computing equipment and library books. Everyone has to be on email because schools can’t afford to print and send out letters.’