Many gathered over the weekend to oppose education cuts, reports Orlando Hill
On the weekend before schools breaks for summer, you wouldn’t imagine parents, young students and teachers marching past 10 Downing Street towards Parliament Square. That is exactly where they were last Sunday.
Parents and families responded to the call from the Fair Funding for All Schools Campaign and gathered at Whitehall Gardens for a march and then a carnival and picnic at Parliament Square. The ongoing campaign is attracting new parent activists. The demonstration had more of a feeling of a school outing, with children eating their packed lunch before even before the march began. Parents came from as far afield as Devon. On the march parents pointed out the main tourist attractions to their children. Parents and children were very enthusiastic throughout, carrying their homemade placards and shouting slogans like “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts.”
The march drew support from the public, both Londoners and those from outside the capital. I met an Argentine and her daughter who said that they were also fighting against cuts in education. The daughter was elated when I gave her a badge and one of the campaign’s paper hats demanding an extra £2 billion for schools.
Gerald Clarke from Camden NUT pointed out the importance of the local organisation:
“From Camden we had substantial parental groups from at least three schools who had organised themselves to get here, as well as the teachers the teachers we brought. It’s essential that we keep up this level of campaigning to keep pressure on the government and this is really working.”
Prior to the carnival and picnic, local demos had been held all across the country. In Camden, where I teach, we had a Big School Assembly which attracted hundreds of teachers and parents from local schools. Many of whom then came on the Carnival. Parents are hosting their own meetings and all are bringing new parents along.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, spoke at the rally at Parliament Square:
“At the moment, schools don’t have enough money. It’s as simple as that. The way things stand, every child starting school in September this year will have £434 less spent on them in real terms by the time they get to Year Four. £434 less per child. For a class of thirty children, that’s £13,000. These numbers are so large, so significant, that we cannot allow the government to wriggle off the hook when it comes to funding. That is why events like this are so important. It is why your voice is so important.”
As the Tory attacks on education continue, events like this couldn't be more necessary and significant.
Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.
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