Hundreds of people took to the streets of Shrewsbury today to join a protest against changes to education funding.
Parents, children, teachers and union figures weaved their way through the narrow streets chanting “they say cutback we say fight back”, “no ifs, no buts, no to education cuts” as they aimed to make their voices heard over the proposed cuts.
Members of the public applauded as the march passed the Square in the town, before ending up in the Quarry where speeches were made by parents, teachers and pupils.
It comes amid new figures released by unions that claim Shropshire’s schools will lose a total of £13.4 million in funding by 2019.
Unions claim that will lead to a shortfall of £394 per pupil and an equivalent loss of 360 teachers across Shropshire.
Here's how reporter Sam Morris reported from the protest:
The Government proposes to re-allocate school budgets according to a new national funding formula and not increase funding per pupil in line with inflation.
NUT Shropshire division secretary Jean Evanson, who also teaches at Shrewsbury Sixth Form College, said: “Nationally you have got a situation where the cuts that are going to happen are worse than at any other time.
“They are bigger cuts than the Thatcher and Major governments combines. It is an eight per cent cut. For the fifth richest country in the world that is disgusting.
“In terms of Shropshire we have particular problems. It averages out at 394 pounds per pupil per year.
“The effect on Shropshire schools will be massive. Smaller ones are already in dire straits. In bigger schools it is a question of restricting the curriculum, bigger classes and a loss of support for students with special educational needs.
“We are going to end up with poorer education for our children going forward and that is not fair on anybody. We want to put pressure on the government.
“I know there are several Conservative MPs starting to talk to the government about what is going on and we are an area with several Tory MPs and we want them to take responsibility and go back to government and say this is wrong.
“I am very pleased with the turnout. It has been fantastic.”
The march left Castle Lawn just after 10am and meandered through the town until it reached the Quarry.
There, pupils from across the county said how the cuts would affect them.
Izzi Wilcox, 13, who goes to Belvidere School, said: “I would like to say that funding cuts are a terrible idea. 98 per cent of schools will lose a huge amount of money which is not fair.
“It will make it hard for lots of children who find learning hard as the money will not be there.
“Lots of children, myself included, rely on extra support so where will this leave us?
“I am in year 8 and music is crucial to me as I want to be a drummer in a band. Music has also increased my confidence.
“I have dreamt of being a musician since I was a small child and now I fear that dream will never be more than a dream.
“I am worried about what the future will hold for my education. We deserve fair funding for all our schools.”
Figures produced by a consortium of unions claim Shrewsbury College will be the biggest loser in the funding shake-up, with more than £550,000 slashed from its budget. Funding would fall by £330 per pupil and there would be an equivalent loss of 14 teachers.
Meole Brace School will see its budget fall by £508,717 while Belvidere School will lose £351,935 and the budget for Mary Webb School and Science College in Pontesbury will change by £214,592.
The changes will come on top of various cuts to other education funding streams due to take place over the next few years, including the withdrawal of part of the education services grant, which pays for various behind-the-scenes administration services in schools.
The Department for Education disputes the figures given by unions. It says funding will actually go up.
Government spokesman Michael Murphy-Pyle said: “The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010. We are delivering on the government’s manifesto commitment that the amount of money following a child into school will be protected and that as the number of pupils increase, so will the amount of money in our schools.
“Shropshire’s funding would go up by more than £1.4 million if a proposed new funding formula was implemented.”
It is an issue that is causing controversy across the country. The parents of about half a million pupils across the south east of England received a letter today warning of cuts to schools because of funding shortages.
The heads of almost every school in Essex, West Sussex, East Sussex and Cornwall have written the joint letter, warning of budgets at “breaking point”.
Headteachers and their staff have also taken to Twitter to highlight what may have to be axed in schools in England because of budget cuts. There have been more than 27,000 tweets using the hashtag #whatwouldyoucut since the campaign against the cuts started.
The idea for #whatwouldyoucut came from a group headteachers across the Shropshire border in Cheshire – one of the country’s worst-funded areas in the country, which is set to lose out even more under the government’s planned new funding formula.
Union ASCL’s interim general secretary Malcolm Trobe said: “This campaign shows what is at stake as a result of the education funding crisis.
“School leaders have to reduce their budgets significantly. Smaller budgets mean fewer staff and this impacts on every area of school activity. What would you cut? School concerts? Educational trips? GCSE courses? Mental health support? Sports events?”
The campaign in Shropshire was today welcomed by Councillor Nicholas Bardsley, Shropshire Council’s deputy portfolio holder for education.
He said: “I think it is vital for every school in Shropshire to make their view heard. I don’t think it’s too late to change these proposals.”
Lyn Surgeon, interim principal and chief executive officer of the Shrewsbury Colleges Group, said: “A review of sixth form funding is urgently needed to ensure it is linked to the realistic costs of delivering a rounded, high quality curriculum.”
NUT Shropshire division secretary Jean Evanson said: “These cuts will be a real hammer blow for schools in Shropshire.
“School budgets have already been pushed to the limit.
“It is going to mean headteachers weighing up different choices whether to reduce their extra curricular services, teaching staff, TAs or support staff.”Subscribe to our Newsletter