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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 May 2017

Struggle can beat Tories' outlandish 7% cuts to schools

Teachers marching through London against Tory attacks on education, photo Sarah Wrack

Teachers marching through London against Tory attacks on education, photo Sarah Wrack   (Click to enlarge)

James Kerr, teacher and NUT union activist

The Conservatives' manifesto pledges a slashing of school budgets unseen in generations.

No wonder Theresa May was laughed at and heckled during the live TV debate when she attacked Labour's sums on school funding.

Even the free-market Institute for Fiscal Studies produced a damning assessment: "Taking account of forecast growth in pupil [numbers], this equates to a real-terms cut in spending per pupil of 2.8% between 2017-18 and 2021-22.

"Adding this to past cuts makes for a total real-terms cut to per-pupil spending of around 7% over the six years between 2015-16 and 2021-22."

With the vast majority of school spending going on staff, this means fewer teachers and teaching assistants with class sizes set to rise. Already over 500,000 children are taught in classes over 30, the maximum recommended by the National Union of Teachers.

This has a huge impact on the quality of education children experience - but will also inevitably force more teachers out of the profession. More teachers are having to be pragmatic about their choices.

I spoke to one teacher last week who has resigned from his extra responsibility as a head of year because the pressures of that role on top of his teaching duties were becoming unbearable. He can make more money doing a few hours of tutoring on the side.

We will see an exodus of good teachers and a skills shortage if things continue as they are.

May had the audacity to say she wanted more children taught in 'good' and 'outstanding' Ofsted schools. Home Secretary Amber Rudd, in the wake of the Manchester attack, said she wanted schools to do more to tackle 'radicalisation'.

All these grand election promises - delivered with fewer resources and a worn-out profession? Teachers are renowned for liking mugs, not being them.

We need to kick the Tories out on 8 June, but also gear up for a mass campaign to defend education if they win. Recent events on funding across the country show the basis for a broad-based campaign. But the education unions will need to provide the cutting edge to that in the form of industrial action.

It promises to be a long hot summer either way.

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In The Socialist 31 May 2017:


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