Giving a voice to parents was the key message at National Training Day

Kay and Charlotte, founders of Hitchin & Harpenden Parents Against School Cuts, attended the School Cuts training day on 15 September. Find out what they learned and how you can get involved in your own community.

If you want to know about the school funding crisis, School Cuts, an organisation made up of 5 teaching unions, are the experts. We wanted to know. We wanted to know how deep the cuts were, we wanted to know what this meant for schools up and down the country, what other groups were doing about this and what we could do as a group to support other campaigns and individuals.

Fortunately for us, on Saturday, September 15th, School Cuts ran a National Training Day at the National Education Union Head Office in London. I attended this training event along with over 100 other parents, teachers and school leaders.

People travelled from all over the UK to attend the workshops and talks. The school funding crisis is far reaching and parents are extremely worried. This was evident from the conversations that I had with those who were attending.

Some people were already part of action groups but many were attending as individuals, hoping to share ideas and to find out more about what they could do to raise awareness of the School Cuts and to talk about what they could do in their community and with their local schools.

I attended a workshop run by Save Our Schools on “How to work with local schools” and it was extremely informative. As the co-founder of a local action group we have been working in our local community to raise awareness for a few months, but listening to other established groups talk about what has worked for them and the successes they have had locally was inspiring and incredibly useful.

Other members of our group attended sessions on organising and mobilising people, campaigning around SEND provision and lobbying MPs as well as a fantastic workshop on working with the press. We were able to share our experience of starting a group as part of a workshop we ran and by the end of the day everyone was full of energy and ideas and ready to go back to their local communities and get active.

One parent who had been campaigning for over a year told me that she felt re-energised by the day, and that was certainly how we felt. The fight for proper funding in education is ongoing, and it is hard, because the government are not responding and there has been no significant injection of cash for the education budget, and no promise of any further funding to come. But every single person at the National Training Day was there because they are passionate about the campaign, and getting together with so many other dedicated and impassioned people reminded us of the importance of that fight and refocused us on keeping up the pressure on the government.

The day was organised and hosted by the wonderful staff at the NEU, with contributions from a number of national campaigners including Save Our Schools, Fair Funding for All Schools and the Hackney Special Education Crisis team – and us, Hitchin & Harpenden Parents Against School Cuts.

The information and the plans that we are taking away from the Training Day have meant that our group, along with others nationally, and those who are just beginning, can work together on larger campaigns and towards significant milestones and that cohesion is only possible as a result of this fantastic event. The connections we made throughout the day will help our group, and others, to link up and to make our campaigns more impactful and ultimately more successful.

Everyone who attended the day did so with a fair understanding of the depth of the crisis in schools’ funding, but listening to Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary for the NEU, we all realised that things were even more serious than we thought. His talk was both insightful and inspiring.

Teachers, support staff, school leaders and industry experts have long been warning the government about the impact of the School Cuts and the impending crisis, but this event reinforced the importance of Parent Voice in supporting our schools and our teachers by spreading awareness, lobbying the government and putting pressure on the ministers to urgently address this issue.

One of the fantastic outcomes of this event are the plans for the National Day of Action on October 17th and the relationships that are being built between action groups and individuals as a result of the day. These can only strengthen our campaign and we have School Cuts to thank for that.

Kay & Charlotte
Hitchin & Harpenden Parents Against School Cuts