Parents and teachers joined forces on Monday as they hit back at government proposals to slash school budgets in Hackney.
Banners were flung up in playgrounds across the borough as campaigners from the local wing of Fair Funding for All Schools (FFfAS) sounded the alarm over plans to change the national funding formula from 2018.
The formula is used to work out how money from the dedicated schools grant is divvied up among local authorities, and those in the capital are set to lose out.
According to FFfAS, the changes will see £26 million worth of funding pulled from Hackney’s education budget by 2019, amounting to £914 per pupil.
Campaigner Tara Mack, whose child goes to Daubeney primary school, struck a defiant tone as she urged mums and dads across the borough to get stuck in: “These cuts are not inevitable. It is up to us as parents to do something about it. We’re the ones who love our children more than anything and we must do everything we can to get the best for them.”
At Lower Clapton’s Kingsmead primary school, where one of 17 Hackney banners had been tied to the gates, parents rallied to the cause.
Natasha, whose son receives speech therapy at the school, said she was worried about the impact the cuts will have on “important facilities” and staff numbers: “How big a workload will teachers have if they start losing staff? It will be too much. Along with stagnant wages, it makes recruiting teachers much more difficult. A lot of them are already leaving the profession.”
Mum-of-three Justine said she was afraid the school would be forced to scrap creative activities like music, gymnastics and art.
Kingsmead’s executive head Louise Nichols said her own role, which includes overseeing nearby Gayhurst and Mandeville primary schools, shows how stretched the borough’s resources are already.
She warned that a loss in funding will only make things worse: “We will not be able to lead our schools in the way we would want to lead them. These cuts are a huge threat on the horizon and if we don’t get actively involved and pull on our parent power and everything else at our disposal, we’ll have big problems.”
Nichols was particularly scathing about Whitehall throwing money at its free schools programme when Kingsmead, Gayhurst and Mandeville are all expected to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds in funding.
She added: “State-maintained schools have free schools popping up next to them in shiny new buildings, saying they specialise in media or music or whatever else, and parents are understandably tempted by that.
“Actually, what they provide is no different. But the old school, which doesn’t have the money to maintain its buildings or run a big advertising campaign, loses pupils as well as the vital funding they bring.”
Since it was set up last year, the parent-led FFfAS campaign has exploded, and nowhere more so than in Hackney.
The banner crusade is just the first act in a two-week drive, culminating in mass protests in parks across the borough on 26 May.
Louise James, one of the original organisers and the parent of a child at Stoke Newington School, said she has been “blown away” by the response: “In just a few weeks we’ve had parents from dozens of schools eager to get involved in some way. That’s why we’ve been able to do so much in so little time.
“Parents are sick of cuts in everything from the NHS to housing and are finally fighting back for their children.”
If you would like to get involved in the campaign, please visit the Fair Funding for All Schools website here, or text “NOCUTS” to 07860 041 410.