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School cuts: More than 50 headteachers join parents and pupils in revolt

51 top Islington teachers back protests over 'shortsighted' funding cuts threat to ‘our world-class education’

02 June, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

Parents and pupils at Ambler Primary School before leaving for the Clissold Park rally

MORE than 50 Islington headteachers have condemned planned cuts to school budgets in an unprecedented move that has shown the depth of fears about future funding.

In a joint statement released on the day hundreds of parents and pupils staged rallies in protest at cuts, the 51 headteachers said budgets are already under significant strain.

And the prospect of Islington schools losing an estimated £15m in the next two years will mean lower standards, less extra support for children who need it, a narrowed curriculum, larger class sizes and fewer school trips, they have warned.

“For many years headteachers, school staff, governors and the education authority have worked tirelessly together to create high-quality provision across the borough,” the statement released on Friday said.

“We are writing to express our deep concerns that continued inadequate funding of schools will mean we will not be able to sustain these successes.”

The National Audit Office estimates that, without additional funding, by 2019 Islington schools will have to make cuts totalling £15m – the equivalent of the salaries of 400 teachers – due to a range of factors, including increased pension contributions and changes to national funding allocations.

Cassie Moss, headteacher of Yerbury Primary School in Upper Holloway, said: “We have come together because we can’t sit back and watch a world-class and inclusive education system be decimated without shouting about it from the rooftops.

“Headteachers very rarely voice themselves publicly but we are extremely concerned about the impact of these real-term cuts on schools and children’s education.

“Making savings in this way is a very shortsighted and misinformed strategy, which will negatively affect current and future generations of children, making them less well-equipped for life, the world of work and contributing in a positive way to society.”

Secondary school headteachers backing the statement include John Dixon, of Holloway School, and Jo Dibb, head of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Angel.

The intervention by teachers coincided with a national day of protest against cuts organised by parent-led Fair Funding for All Schools campaign.

Parents and pupils at Ambler Primary School, in Finsbury Park, which is set to lose £44,000, chanted “Save our schools!” as they staged a colourful march to Clissold Park, where they linked up with other schools for a rally against the cuts.

Former Ambler pupil Jono Kenyon, 40, who has two children at the school, said: “Over the past decade we’ve seen a massive level of investment in the school and the results are so obvious. We’ve just had an

Ofsted report in which every area in the school was marked as ‘outstanding’.

“The idea that you should take a school in such a deprived ward [Finsbury Park] that has done as well as it has and start damaging that [by reducing funding], it’s a smack in the face of parents and pupils and it’s totally unacceptable.

“This is about investment in schools, and central government should take responsibility.”

In the west of the borough, pupils and parents linked up with Camden schools for a rally at Tufnell Park Playing Fields.

Labour has vowed to halt the cuts to school budgets and reduce class sizes for under-eights as part of a £25bn National Education Service funded by reversing planned tax breaks for big business.

The Conservative manifesto promises schools a real-term increase for every year of the Parliament over current spending plans, meaning no school loses out when the new formula is introduced in 2018-19.

The £4bn investment will be paid for by axing free school meals for infants, which cost the government £600m a year.

Instead, the Tories propose a free breakfast for every child, at a cost of around £60m a year.

Tories have said the money will help schools cope with “some of the pressures” caused by rising salaries, pension and national insurance contributions and inflation.

For more information, visit www.fairfundingforallschools.org. Parents can see National Union of Teachers estimates of how their child’s school budget will be affected at www.schoolcuts.org.uk.

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