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Posted on 2 April 2011 at 15:51 GMT

School students stage anti-cuts strike in Dundee

Dundee school students stage anti-cuts strike, photo Leah Ganley

Dundee school students stage anti-cuts strike, photo Leah Ganley   (Click to enlarge)

150 school students walked out of Harris Academy in Dundee on April 1st and marched on Dundee City Council. The walkout was organised and coordinated by Students Defending Dundee Schools (SDDS), a citywide school student led campaign group set up to oppose the council's 4 million cuts to school budgets and proposals to merge Advanced Higher classes into a 'city campus'.

Wayne Scott and Eoin Lesslie on behalf of Students Defending Dundee Schools

SDDS has grown out of petitioning across Dundee schools against the 'city campus' plans. School students see the merging of Advanced Highers as a cut and education being run on the cheap.

Pupils will face the inconvenience of having to travel across the city to attend classes previously available at their own schools. Despite being presented with a petition with several hundred signatures opposing the plans the SNP council has dismissed the concerns of pupils, parents and staff and begun implementing the plans.

Photo Leah Ganley

Photo Leah Ganley   (Click to enlarge)

Students from Harris and Morgan academies along with the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign organised a hundred-strong protest outside the council's education committee on 28 February linking opposition to the city campus to wider education cuts in the city.

The SNP administration continued to ignore the concerns of school students and so plans for a walkout and mass demonstration were made. Anger increased as on 28 March SNP councillor Liz Fordyce (now termed by school students as the "Iron Lady of Dundee") refused to rule out school closures in the council's review of education ending in December 2011.

Photo Leah Ganley

Photo Leah Ganley   (Click to enlarge)

Hundreds of school students have joined the SDDS Facebook group and taken part in organising the walkout. The local newspapers and the STV website covered the walkout plans and SDDS activist Eoin Lesslie was interviewed on local radio.

In response the SNP council rushed out a statement calling on pupils to stay in classes. One SNP councillor when told of the plans by a family member even used Facebook to privately message SDDS to try and defend their cuts policies and discourage action.

This just made us more determined to organise. Pupils massed at the school entrance and were met by lines of police and teachers.

They boldly walked out despite some teachers warning them to stay in classes and preventing a number of pupils under sixteen from leaving. However a large number of fifth and sixth year pupils made it out and began marching.

Despite our concerns at possible trouble with the police once they realised we were determined and organised with our own stewarding, they were very cooperative.

As the march passed through residential areas into the city centre people of all ages came out onto tenement front steps to applaud, shout encouragement and join in the chanting of: "Councillors, here us say, city campus, no way" and "No ifs, no buts, no education cuts".

Once the Harris pupils crowded into the city square they were joined by students from other Dundee secondary schools such as Morgan Academy and St Johns, swelling the number of protesters to near two hundred.

Photo Leah Ganley

Photo Leah Ganley   (Click to enlarge)

School students made speeches explaining the need for SDDS and calling for a mass campaign involving all students in Dundee to fight the cuts and oppose the city campus plan.

We then marched to Tayside House and were met with applause by council workers coming out of offices. A delegation was sent in to demand that the education convenor or a representative from the SNP administration meet with us and receive our petition.

Disgracefully it was left to admin staff to explain to us that all the councillors had gone home early and not one manager of any department was in the building.

Low paid council workers will be angry to find out that council leaders making cuts can't be bothered to work a full day. SDDS made an appointment with the Education Convenor and handed over our petition.

Dundee school students stage anti-cuts strike, photo Leah Ganley

Dundee school students stage anti-cuts strike, photo Leah Ganley   (Click to enlarge)

The council can be warned that this will not be the last protest and opposition to the cuts will only increase.

Over the Easter holidays we plan to build SDDS in every school in Dundee. We are having meetings to organise a steering committee for the campaign with representatives from every school and plan to hold a press conference to get the real story out about the city campus and the education cuts.

In the new term we will organise mass lobbies of councillors, further walkouts and demonstrations with the support of Youth Fight for Jobs and the wider anti-cuts movement.

SDDS will be a voice for school students as the pro-cuts politicians try to silence us. The campaign has contacted the EIS and other teachers' unions asking for a discussion about how we can work together and to express support for their campaigning against attacks on pensions, pay and conditions.

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