Families protest outside school over early Friday closures
Dozens of families have protested outside a school in Greater Manchester that is planning to close early on Fridays because it cannot afford to educate its pupils.
The final straw came for parents after Vale View primary school in Reddish, Stockport, announced last week that nine staff members, including some of the most experienced teachers, were being made redundant and that the headteacher was leaving.
Parents and schoolchildren held banners and wore badges reading “Save our teachers” outside the school gates to take a stand against budget cuts. Some parents travelled to London on Friday to protest against the national crisis in education funding, alongside families from other schools in Birmingham, Brighton, Hove, Hitchin, Wiltshire, Stockport, Hastings and Leicester, and the MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips.
The Guardian reported last week that at least 200 schools in England were cutting short the school week, or were actively consulting on it, because of insufficient funding, according to campaigners. From September, classes at Vale View will finish at 12.45pm each Friday. Parents who cannot pick up their children early will have to pay £3.50 per child for an after school club.
Karen Duignan, a parent at the school, said five of the teachers losing their jobs, two of whom are deputy headteachers, had served for more than 19 years and some had taught parents who now had children at Vale View.
“It’s disheartening and has angered a lot more parents,” she said.
“We all knew cuts were coming and tough decisions had to be made but it’s the way it was gone about that hurts the most. It feels like the heart has been ripped out of the school.”
Duignan’s daughter, Millie, seven, wrote a letter to the school saying: “I don’t like seeing teachers upset and I feel angry and upset that teachers are losing there [sic] jobs.”
Megan Montgomery, a parent at the school who co-launched a petition when the change in school hours was announced in February, said the redundancies were the latest in a raft of cuts to resources. “We’re not going to accept it, everyone’s taking a stand now.”
She said the timetable change affected working parents in particular.
“It is hard and stressful enough for working families, so many mums struggle to go back to work after having a child and now having to finish work early on Fridays will make it even harder.”
The local MP, Andrew Gwynne, said: “The Vale View parents have my full support – no school should be forced to shut early on a Friday to make ends meet.
“Unfortunately more and more schools are having to make these difficult decisions as a result of the massive cuts that the Conservative government is imposing. At Vale View, this amounts to a £430,122 drop in funding compared to 2015 – or a per-pupil loss of £446.”
Cllr Colin Foster, from Stockport council, said: “Our main priority is to support the school through this transition, which will include the appointment of a new headteacher.
“We will of course continue to work closely with the governors and leadership team at Vale View to ensure all school children continue to receive the best education possible.”