As we near the end of the consultation period for the second stage of the National Funding Formula proposals where schools in Cheshire East stand to lose money and teachers through harsh cuts, two large events took place over Friday 17th and Saturday 18th March to put considerable pressure on the government to act to reverse the cuts. Neither of the events was organised by the Labour party it must be said – political parties running public meetings and marches can put many people off, even though the issue is almost entirely political – but Crewe & Nantwich Labour party is committed to being there, to stand shoulder to shoulder with the community over issues as important as this. We will continue to turn up to marches, public meetings and anything else we can and make our presence felt and tell our communities that we are the party that opposes austerity of any kind and instead believes in real investment where society as a whole benefits.
On Friday 17th March, on St. Patricks Day, the Cheshire East branch of the trade union UNISON organised and held a public meeting at the Alexandra Suite inside Crewe Alexandra Football Stadium. In order to have a voice from both sides of the argument two prominent MPs were invited – Labour MP Angela Rayner, Shadow Education Secretary and Conservative MP Edward Timpson, MP here in Crewe & Nantwich and Children and Families Minister.
As many expected, Edward Timpson could not attend – citing prior engagements. Angela Rayner also had prior arrangements but managed to fit us in and still see to that engagement in her own constituency in the same night which should be commended. Angela spoke about how she had to come to the conclusion from being in Westminster that Theresa May was being worked by the 1922 Committee as she had promised to introduce Grammar Schools in exchange for backing before Andrea Leadsom dropped out. Of course the money for grammar schools needs to come from somewhere and this is why our state schools are having money taken away from to fund this project.
Second to speak on the night was Laura Smith. Laura is a community organiser and the local face behind the Fairer Funding For All Schools campaign group for Cheshire East which organised a demo in Nantwich in the town square and pulled in a fantastic attendance of 400 on a wet Monday morning. Laura, herself a mother and professional in the field, has felt the need to organise a presence to fight this and spoke very well at the meeting about how we should continue to fight this and make our presence and voices heard at every opportunity – including make your thoughts known to your local MP. Laura wrote an article for us about the cuts, you can read it here.
Next up, Andrew Cliffe, headteacher at Brine Leas School in Nantwich. He spoke about the very real losses he sees will happen with the cuts. He said that arts and music will go first from schools like his, sixth form colleges will drop an A-level (from 4 to 3) and then it will be the teaching assistants.
Finally, our very own – Labour councillor on Cheshire East, Dorothy Flude. Dorothy sits on many a school board, is on the relevant children, family and education based committees on the council and has been involved with education in some way all her life. She talked about the finer details of the cuts and talked about how children with disabilities, mental and physical, will lose out.
After the speakers had finished questions were asked form the audience – the makeup was of those involved in a professional capacity, as well as trade union members, political activists and of course concerned parents. The concern was real and most participation came from people who just wanted to vent their frustrations. Many of those proposed continuation of action to force the government to U-turn on this.
Education Cuts March in Sandbach
The next day, a march had been organised by Laura Smith and the Fairer Funding For All Schools campaign group. It was expected that the attendance could reach over 1000 and police reported after that they believed it had. The march started at Sandbach School on Crewe Road, the headteacher had kindly allowed it as the school is itself concerned with the proposed cuts. The march started at 11:00 and went on towards the cobbled market square in the town centre of Sandbach. There Laura, amongst others, spoke to the crowds. The BBC’s The One Show were in attendance at the start of the match and filmed pieces which should appear sometime in the week. Reporters also gathered at the market square and an item about it made the BBC North West bulletin that night.