Last Saturday, 8th June, saw hundreds of parents, children and teachers descend on the centre of Bath to march against government school cuts, in one of the biggest protests in the city in recent times.
Campaign group Fair Funding for All Schools – BANES, which is run by concerned parents, organised the march which started in Queen Square and ended at the Royal Crescent.
Speeches were made by local headteachers, and Bath’s Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse.
Wera, who used to be a secondary school teacher, said: “There were over 1000 people on the streets of Bath today, and the government need to listen to us.
“I’m a firm believer in people power; if we make enough noise, we will bring about change.
“It makes me very angry that the government hide behind disingenuous school funding figures; they need to face the reality and understand what’s happening in classrooms across the country.
“I will keep fighting in Parliament on behalf of teachers, parents and children. Everyone deserves a proper education.”
Schools across Bath & North East Somerset are experiencing unprecedented cuts to school budgets.
Spending per child in BANES schools in 2018/19 is down in real terms by 8.8% in Bath, and by 6.7% in NE Somerset from 2013/14. At the same time, pupil numbers and costs have gone up.
Headteachers are currently being forced to take tough decisions.
The issues caused by the funding crisis vary from school to school, but common problems include:
- Bigger class sizes;
- Fewer teaching assistants and support staff (e.g. pastoral staff, mentors);
- Inadequate support for children, especially as support services have suffered similar severe cuts and / or face massive increases in demand e.g. child and mental health services;
- The inability to fully meet the needs of children with additional needs in mainstream schools who rely on school (and external service) support;
- Low or no funding for equipment, training and activities to promote a broad and balanced curriculum.
A spokesperson for Fair Funding for All Schools said: “A healthy education system is fundamental to a healthy society, but unless things change fast, our children will not have the individual support they may need at key developmental stages, with potentially lifelong consequences.
“As parents, we are extremely concerned.”
Kevin Guy, B&NES Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, who was on the march said: “The new Lib Dem council administration fully support this protest, and I am deeply concerned that the funding crisis has got to this point.
“We will support Wera Hobhouse in lobbying government to provide appropriate funding for our schools so all children in Bath and North East Somerset are given the best possible education, and benefit from opportunities as a result.”
The protest comes after the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers), together with the Fair Funding for All Schools – BANES , coordinated head teachers from schools in Bath and North East Somerset to send a letter to all parents/carers explaining the impact of the funding crisis.
George Samios, head teacher at Twerton Infant School, said: “We are having to do more and more with less and less. As head teachers we are being put in very difficult situations, and our staff are as well.
“Schools are under more pressure now than they have been for a long time. The future of our country is uncertain, and the next generation face huge challenges.
“We ought to be investing in them and equipping them to overcome these challenges through providing the best possible education, and this is not possible on a shoestring budget.”