Cuts march snubbed by unions

24th March 1995 at 00:00
Emma Burstall and Frances Rafferty on the acrimony that has marred the organisation of protests against the Government. You've seen nothing yet, John Monks, general secretary of the TUC, warned the Government at a rally this week against cuts in education budgets.

He told 1,000-plus teachers, parents and governors gathered at London's Methodist Central Hall that it would be a long, sustained campaign. However, the event was not a curtain-raiser to tomorrow's anti-cuts demonstration.

The unions which took part in Tuesday's lobby are not backing the march to Hyde Park which has been organised by the new Fight Against Cuts in Education - a pressure group of parents, teachers and governors.

The unions say they fear the march could be taken over by activists on the far Left and do not want to be associated with an event that could turn violent. But Sue Lister, FACE's chair, denied any links with the Socialist Workers' Party or other radical groups, and said local union organisations had been supportive.

She believed many of those who attended the lobby on Tuesday would also take part in the march and predicted a 20,000 turn out. She said that a SWP leaflet publicising the protest had led Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, and others to jump to the conclusion that they were behind the protest.

"No one in their right mind would assume that no left-wing groups are going to turn up, of course they will, but FACE itself is largely made up of Liberal Democrats. We've gone to a lot of trouble to explain to the NUT exactly what we are, that we're a parents' and governors' organisation lobbying for change, to no avail. We'd like their support and we believe we should be fighting the Government about education cuts not fighting the NUT. I feel very angry about this," she said.

Tuesday's rally had been organised under the auspices of the National Union of Teachers, angering other teacher organisations which claimed they had not been consulted. But the day itself ran reasonably smoothly and ended with delegations at the House of Commons lobbying their MPs.

Paddy Ashdown, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the lobby would have no effect. He said the best way to demonstrate what they thought of the Government was to vote in the local elections on May 4. He called the cuts an act of vandalism.

Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said just under 5,500 teachers' jobs were lost as a result of last year's cuts. This year would be even worse.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said his union was most concerned about the effect cuts were having on class sizes and hinted that he expected his members to call for tough action at their annual conference this Easter.

A number of speakers accused the Government of making the cuts so it would be in a position to hand out tax breaks in the run up to the general election. David Blunkett, Labour's education spokesman, said the Government was putting children's futures at risk to secure those of Tory back-benchers.

Tomorrow morning children from Derbyshire intend to deliver a letter to Downing Street asking John Major to reverse the cuts. The letter should be delivered just hours before parents, governors and children take to the the streets.

Tomorrow's march to Hyde Park will set off from the Embankment Tube station at 2pm.

* The governors at Newbold Community school, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, have resigned rather than implement cuts which they say will mean the loss of 17 teachers. The school, named by HM Chief Inspector as one of England's "improved schools" will now come under the direct control of the LEA until a new governing body is elected.

The governors said they were being forced to make a Pounds 250,000 cut to the Pounds 2.5 million budget.

Queenswood county primary school, Telford, Shropshire, is still without a governing body after its governors resigned at the end of January because they were forced to make a staff member redundant.

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