Bleak midwinter as cuts drive protesters to vigil

8th March 1996 at 00:00
In the bitter cold, a group of headteachers mounted an all-night vigil outside the headquarters of Powys County Council in protest at underfunding in education in the county.

A crowd of around 100, many carrying placards, gathered to lend their support to the brave dozen or so who maintained the vigil through the night. A volunteer brought coffee and cakes in the early hours and local postmen briefly joined before starting their shift at 5am.

But despite the protest on Sunday night in Llandrindod Wells, organised by the National Association of Head Teachers in Wales, the county council agreed on Monday to education cuts of Pounds 900,000. Schools meals, funds to buy books and teachers' jobs are now at risk.

Ian Jones, secretary of the NAHT in Powys and head of Mount Street Infants, Brecon, said the protest was aimed not at the county council, but the Welsh Office, which was underfunding education. "We have to make the Welsh Office aware that we can no longer sustain an education service that has been cut and cut and cut over several years."

The latest cuts come as Powys anticipates an extra 448 pupils joining county schools and the extra costs of the teachers' pay rise still have to be met. Schools face being asked to make savings of from Pounds 3,000 to Pounds 40,000 depending on size.

"We have been concerned for some time about the falling level of education spending and we believe this really is an emergency situation," said Mr Jones. "This vigil may not fit people's perception of headteachers, but a desperate situation requires desperate measures and we have to make a stand."

Teachers, governors, parents and staff working in the school meals service lent their support to the protest. The NAHT hopes to have a representative in a delegation from the county council meeting Welsh Secretary William Hague to discuss funding.

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