Over the last couple of weeks, students, teachers, and parents have turned out at rallies in towns and cities across the country to protest against Tory cuts to education. We provide here a series of reports by Socialist Appeal supporters that show the angry and political mood on these demonstrations.
On Saturday 20th May, Sheffield Marxists joined around 150 people in a demonstration against cuts to education. The demonstration began with a march through the sunny streets of Sheffield, with slogans demanding an end to cuts to education; out with the Tories; and in with Corbyn.
We marched to the town hall where there were a number of speakers, including Natalie Bennet, the former Green Party leader, local labour councillors, NUT reps, and Sheffield Socialist Appeal supporter Natasha Sorrell.
The speeches were rousing, covering a wider range of issues affected by the cuts in education that have been implemented by the Tory Party. As one speaker noted, the real terms effect of the cuts would be a loss of over £400 per pupil per year in some schools.
At this point in the rally the effect of council cuts were also beginning to show, when it transpired that they had double booked the town hall steps - and so the speeches had to be moved on account of a more than disgruntled wedding party!
Overall, the tone of the rally was clearly pro-Corbyn, and calls for socialist policies were well applauded. While the rally was poorly attended in comparison to previous anti-cuts demonstrations in Sheffield, the openly pro-Corbyn character of the protest made up for this, meaning that all those who walked past through the centre of Sheffield would see that there are many people who reject this Tory government and are looking for a radical change!
“We can’t let them take our future away! We can’t be pawns for their political ideas!”
These were the words of a fourteen-year-old girl to a crowd of hundreds of parents, teachers and school students who gathered in Mile End park on 24th May, to rally against education cuts in the London borough of Tower Hamlets.
Despite the suggestion by some of the organisers that this was a community event, as opposed to a political one, a number of the speakers at the rally, especially the students, talked about how it is Theresa May and the Tories who are cutting funding for local authority schools whilst promoting academies and grammar schools.
“Our only hope is for Corbyn to win the election,” one parent told us. “If Theresa May wins she’s going to make our lives impossible,” a mum explained to her daughter while we were discussing the latest polls. “But whoever forms the next government, we’re still going to have to fight for proper funding for our schools,” another speaker said from the platform.
The vibrancy and energy of this rally should give us confidence that people are getting organised and prepared to stand up for education. Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party has given a political focus to this feeling, and he needs to fight on a solid socialist basis for well-funded and properly-managed schools. That means challenging the capitalist system that puts profit above decent education.
Similar rallies for education are taking place all over the country. Parents, teachers and students should go along, get organised and fight these cuts.
In a sunny park in Hackney, London, on Friday 26th May, a rally of over 100 people was held against the education cuts being proposed by the Tories. A mixture of students, teachers, support staff, and parents came together to publically condemn these cuts and the callous Tory government that is enacting them.
Students led marches from local schools, converging in Clissold Park with slogans such as “education is our right” and “children know that cuts hurt”.
Diane Abbot, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, also made an appearance at the protest, echoing the statements made by students and teachers alike.
Fair Funding for All Schools (FFfAS) is a grassroots campaign led by parents that has organised a number of similar rallies across the country in the past couple of weeks. According to their reports, the cuts proposed will see £26 million worth of funding pulled from Hackney’s education budget by 2019, amounting to £914 per pupil.
We spoke to Will, a learning support assistant at the demo, who outlined the impact of the cuts.
“My role is to support children. Every child should have a fair and equal opportunity to access education. The current situation does not allow this. These cuts affect our department the hardest by cutting staff and the most disadvantaged students. Cutting funding to schools is like cutting off your own leg.”
These education cuts represent a wider trend in the Tories’ manifesto: putting profits first. People on the demonstration clearly recognised the link between these cuts and the upcoming general election; hence the rally was filled with Vote Corbyn posters and placards saying “make June the end of May”.
These campaigns show the power of working class communities once organised. There is a sharpening anti-Tory mood erupting across the country. On this basis, we could see a Corbyn Labour government come to power – the first step in the fight for socialism!
Fiona Lali, SOAS Marxists
On Saturday 27th May the NUT organised a Save Our Schools demonstration in Newcastle City Centre. This gathered approximately two hundred people, with many more passing through, to protest against Tory cuts to schools and in defence of the education system.
Most of the speakers were trade union activists, and as such many of the speeches were mainly anecdotes about Tory malpractice and a general condemnation of Conservative policy. We share this condemnation and stand shoulder to shoulder with any trade union leaders willing to take the fight to May and her government; yet we must also recognise the link between Tory austerity policies and their desperate struggle to prop up the capitalist system, which is failing all around them.
This demonstration was one of many across the country that Socialist Appeal got involved in. Given the timing of the event, just a couple of weeks before the general election, most of the attendees had more than just education on their minds. NUT activists, others at the demo, and many of the people passing through the city centre were receptive to our “all out for Corbyn!” message. Despite being cut a little short by a downpour, the mood throughout was an optimistic one. People were happy to stop and chat about Corbyn, Labour, and their improving prospects in the upcoming election, and there is no doubt as to the cause – the most socialist manifesto of our lifetime.
Frankie Toynton, Newcastle Marxists