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Headteacher tells cuts protest: ‘Education was a decisive factor in reducing Tory votes’

'Big Assembly' in Talacre Gardens sees teachers, parents and children protest against school budget cuts

07 July, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Children join the ‘Big Assembly, which was told Camden schools still face £20million of cuts

A PRIMARY school headteacher has said the schools funding protests were “decisive” at the general election and helped secure several concessions.

But Gospel Oak Primary School head John Hayes has warned that Camden schools still face “deeply destructive spend­ing cuts” of £20million over the next three years.

Mr Hayes – the latest in a series of Camden headteachers to speak out against the government – grabbed the mic in front of 150 parents, school staff and pupils during a protest event at Talacre Gardens, in Kentish Town, on Tuesday afternoon.

John Hayes

He said: “All of a sudden ministers and backbenchers are falling over themselves to support the lifting of pay restraints. What is the government’s strategy now? No new grammar schools, no end to infant school meals, and school funding plans to be put forward at a later date. This is a mere shadow of the manifesto they campaigned on.  We know, and we’ve seen it in action, that protest and campaigning actually work. We know that education was a decisive factor in reducing Tory votes, leading to the government losing their majority and being desperate to cling to power.”

He added: “Now is the time more than ever to maintain and increase the level of campaigning and to pressure our MPs and councillors, to join with councillors, parents’ groups and trade unions and continue to fight for all our schools. The speculation is that another election is on the way. Let’s work together to make sure the biggest winners in that election are our kids.”

Children and parents brought placards to Tuesday’s “Big Assembly” event and signed messages of criticism to Prime Minister Theresa May on a banner that will be delivered to the Department for Education. Mr Hayes said threats made before the election of imposing grammar schools had shown “complete disregard” of the “huge increase” in comprehensive schooling standards.

A plan to replace free school lunches with breakfasts was “ridiculous”, he added. “I’m proud to be part of the local authority, and accountable to that local authority, to the children, parents and governors – not to a board of governors and not to a trust.”

He added: “We are part of a local authority that is in danger of losing in real terms up to £20million over the next three years. That’s almost £900 per pupil, or the equivalent of nearly 500 staff, be they teachers, teaching assistants or other school staff. That is something we cannot allow to happen.”

Camden Unison’s Hugo Pierre said the outstanding quality of schools in Camden was a result of a decision by the council around 20 years ago to prioritise education funding. General secretary of the National Union of Teachers Kevin Courtney, a former physics teacher at Camden School for Girls, said: “We still think there are £3billion of cuts in our schools [nationally]. Parents should say our children only have one chance to go to school – and it’s now.”

School funding campaigner Madelaine Holt, a former BBC Newsnight journalist from Tufnell Park, told the event that parents needed to win the “moral argument” against school funding cuts for the campaign to succeed.

Highgate ward councillor Oliver Lewis thanked the NUT and Camden Unison for organising a protest that was originally scheduled for May but was cancelled because of the Manchester concert bombing the night before.

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