Cash-strapped school in Sheffield 'asking parents to pay for paper', rally hears

Protesters demonstrating against education cuts make their way along The Moor
Protesters demonstrating against education cuts make their way along The Moor
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A cash-strapped school in Sheffield is asking parents to stump up for the cost of paper, it was claimed today during a rally against education cuts.

Around 100 protesters gathered in Devonshire Green this afternoon before marching through the city centre to Sheffield Town Hall.

Around 100 people took part in the march, which was planned before the general election was announced

Around 100 people took part in the march, which was planned before the general election was announced

Speakers told how schools were already under huge pressure, even before spending cuts totalling £71m across South Yorkshire take effect.

One teacher claimed the strain of constant tests was taking its toll on children's mental health.

But perhaps the most alarming message came from a demonstrator who told before the march how budgets are so tight her children's school is asking parents to provide paper so it can afford to print past exam papers.

Eleanor Midgley, whose children attend Silverdale School, in Bents Green, said: "We're having to constantly pay for resources because there's not even enough paper to send home the past papers pupils need for revision.

"They're asking you to come in and photocopy the past papers so students can have those resources."

Teachers gathered ahead of the march told how schools were already having to lay off teaching assistants and cut support services, putting greater pressure on teachers, many of whom they said were abandoning the profession.

Ms Midgley, who is a nurse at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, also said she was 'sickened' by cuts to the health service, especially the decision to scrap bursaries for nurses which she said had led to a 50 per cent reduction in applications to join the profession.

The rally was led by Sheffield NUT (National Union of Teachers) but the TUC (Trades Union Council) and campaigners fighting against cuts to the NHS were also represented.

Natasha Sorrell, who teaches at Firth Park Academy, told how teachers are working up to 70 hours a week, schools face a shortage of basic equipment and the pressure of constant tests is damaging pupils' mental health, with further cuts set to make life even harder.

"We need to elect a government willing to invest huge amounts huge amounts of money to pay for education... We need to make education for all children and not just the privileged few," she added.

Nic Fitzpatrick, secretary of Barnsley NUT, said education funding in Sheffield faced £27.3m of cuts by 2020 - equivalent to £395 per pupil or the cost of employing 731 teachers.

She said schools in Barnsley faced cuts of £9m, Rotherham £19m and Doncaster £16m - a total across South Yorkshire of £71m.

"Call me weird but that doesn't sound like record levels of investment to me. How can it be if we fail to factor in rising costs?" she added...

"Fantastic things are happening in our schools right now but they won't happen in the future is we don't invest in our children."

Labour councillor Ben Miskell, who teaches at Bradfield School in Sheffield, said he has seen first-hand how cuts are affecting education.

"I see the loss of about £408 funding per pupil. That's equivalent to about 10 full-time teachers by 2019. That's an utter disgrace," he said.

Natalie Bennett, who is standing for the Green Party in Sheffield Central, claimed that in real terms by 2020 education spending would be cut by eight per cent.

She set out her party's plans to abolish SATs tests, scrap the education watchdog Ofsted and start formal education for children one year later.

"We want our teachers to be able to teach, our children to be able to learn and schools not to become exam factories," she added.

Jen Dunstan, of Sheffield Disabled People Against The Cuts, told how her autistic son was forced to attend a mainstream school 'due to the austerity cuts'.

"There are many more teachers in mainstream schools who are having to be skilled up on the cheap to learn to deal with children like this little boy here," she said, gesturing towards her son.

The biggest cheer came when her son finally got hold of the microphone, which he had been clamouring for, and, asked how government cuts to education made him feel, he replied 'angry'.