A report from “School Cuts: What’s the Damage” National Education Union fringe meeting

Last Sunday evening Jonny Crawshaw chaired the “School Cuts: What’s the Damage” National Education Union fringe meeting at The Green Party Conference. The panel consisted of Kevin Courtney (Joint general Secretary, NEU), Vix Lowthion (Green Party Education Spokesperson) and Vickie Kemp (Fair Funding For All Schools).

Jonny began, introducing Rescue Our Schools, plugging the manifesto and urging people to join us. Kevin Courtney spoke very eloquently taking apart the government line that “there is more funding than ever” going into education; which there is, except that this doesn’t account for the increasing pupil numbers and increasing costs bourne by schools such pension contributions, apprenticeship levies and the effect of inflation. He conceded that there had been some movement on the new funding formula since the election. 88% of schools will be losing money down from 92% He evidenced this as the success of the campaign in the run up to the election, citing groups such as RoS and FFfAS as well as the Schoolcuts website.

Vix Lowthion spoke about her own experience as a teacher and the difficulties in speaking out. She is currently employed in the Isle of Wight, where she says she found difficulty in getting work having been a vocal opponent of changes happening within education under Michael Gove. She also reiterated the concern we all feel about the narrowing of the curriculum due to high stakes testing and the impact this has on children of all different backgrounds and abilities.

Vickie Kemp spoke about her shock in going into school one day and hearing the headteaching saying that there was no money, having previously believed that schools were well funded. She talked about the difficulty of setting up campaigns on your own, but how even though their FFfAS branch was still small, people were seeing their activity and coming forward to join them.

An open floor discussion ended with the consensus view that more pressure must be applied to government ministers over school funding and also in areas such as testing/assessment and the punitive approach taken to learning. One member rightly pointed out that it is not just parents, carers and staff who have a stake in education – we all do, irrespective of your personal circumstances. Society as a whole benefits from a well educated population.

Kevin Courtney spoke very positively about the RoS manifesto a number of times during the evening and recommended that members present seek it out and give it a read, saying it contained many ideas and values that we all share.

Vix Lowthion, Vickie Kemp and former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett all expressed support for the cause as well as a number of Green party members, who wished to be either better informed or more involved in the fight.

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