Teachers, Parents and Kids Fight for our Education (While Greening Stays at Home)
TEACHERS and parents vowed to “shake the government” over education cuts as hundreds marched in London yesterday.
NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney called on the government to take notice of teachers’ concerns as he told the Star that nearly one million people switched their vote from the Tories to Labour over education cuts.
He said it was a testament to the powerful campaign organised by parents’ groups and supported by teaching unions in opposition to devastating cuts planned by the government that would see the education budget slashed by £3 billion by 2020.
The Carnival Against the Cuts march and rally was organised by the Fair Funding for all Schools group, an alliance of parents and teachers fighting for increased funding for schools.
Pressure is growing on the government to deal with increasingly unpopular cuts and pay restraint across the public sector, with the cabinet divided over the issue of the public-sector pay cap.
Last week the Save Our Schools campaign handed a 300,000-strong petition to the Department for Education opposing the cuts.
MP for Brent Dawn Butler pledged support from the Labour Party, which she said would be with them “every step of the way.”
Ms Butler praised teachers for the important role they play in society. “The future of this country is in your hands,” she told the crowds.
And highlighting the success of the campaign she said: “This government wasn’t prepared to listen. But you made it listen.”
Journalist and parent Gary Younge said that Education Secretary Justine Greening had declined an invitation to address the rally.
He told them: “We invited speakers from all political parties to attend, including the Education Secretary, but she wouldn’t come.”
NUT president Louise Regan told the Star: “Our schools need to be properly funded. We know the impact of these cuts will hit the most vulnerable in our schools the worst.
“We are already seeing the impact of cuts and we cannot take any more.”
And in a week that saw teachers offered another “austerity” pay award of 1 per cent, she warned that the profession already faces a recruitment and retention crisis.
“This poor pay award is divisive and sets teacher against teacher and we oppose that,” Ms Regan said.
“We need a properly funded pay award to restore the pay of teachers and all staff across the public sector who are suffering what is in reality a pay cut.”
The rally heard from parents and head teachers who slammed the government for “the most damaging cuts in a generation.”
Children signed a giant banner calling for fair funding for all schools as they listened to music performances and were entertained by stilt-walkers handing out balloons in a carnival atmosphere.
Mr Courtney said “The government has done nothing to stop those cuts happening. Class sizes are going up, arts, dance, drama and media being cut back. And parents aren’t going to put up with it.
“The government is now saying ‘when the economy picks up, we’ll put some money into schools.’ But parents are saying: ‘My child has got one chance to go to school and that is now.’
“It’s no good putting money in in five years’ time when they’ve left that school.
“Whoever caused the problems in our economy, it’s not the kids in school and they shouldn’t be suffering these cuts.”
He said the union would be working with other education unions ATL, NAHT and support staff unions GMB, Unison and Unite as well as the “fantastic” parents’ campaign.
“We’re going to shake the government over this and it will have to put some money in.”