Jess Phillips: Labour MP to 'leave son' outside No 10 in protest against budget cuts forcing schools to close early

Politician set up crowdfunding campaign after finding out 10-year-old son's school will close early on Fridays

Chiara Giordano
Tuesday 12 March 2019 22:27 GMT
'I'm concerned we won't be able to meet the needs of the children anymore' Derbyshire school's headteacher explains effects of school funding shortage

MP Jess Phillips plans to leave her son outside Downing Street and transport thousands of children to Westminster to protest against budget cuts forcing schools to close early.

She annouced her plans for the demonstration, which she has launched an fundraising campaign to finance, after learning that the school attended by her 10-year-old son Danny, will close at lunchtime on Fridays because it can no longer afford to stay open for a full school week.

The Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley raised more than £6,000 of her £10,000 goal within 17 hours of setting up her crowdfunding campaign.

Ms Phillips said the money would be used to transport thousands of children to the Department for Education, Downing Street, and the Treasury – where she says they will sing the Baby Shark song in protest.

The 37-year-old said she knew of “15 other schools” in Birmingham that were in the same position as her son’s.

“The government has failed in the most basic job it has to provide schooling for all of our children five days a week," she said. "We intend to show them that we will not take this. Together with the Save Our Schools group I am organising a huge campaign day where we will take thousands of children to Westminster on a Friday and at 1pm, the time our schools have to close.

“We will be leaving our children at the Department for Education, the Treasury, and I will leave my son and some of his friends with special educational needs at Downing Street.”

Ms Phillips said her son’s school can also no longer afford to fund the support needed for children with disabilities and special educational needs and that these pupils may have to leave.

As The Independent reported last week, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has warned it is “highly likely” more schools will have to follow suit and shorten the school day to balance the books.

More than 7,000 headteachers recently joined forces to tell parents about cash shortages in schools in a joint letter to 3.5million families, organised by the Worthless? campaign group.

One headteacher said she had been forced to clean toilets and serve food in the canteen to make ends meet – and her pupils had also helped hoover the school amid intense budget pressures.

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Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said school leaders were faced with “impossible choices on a daily basis”.

He said: “The level of funding provided by the government to our schools and colleges is not remotely sufficient to meet the demands which are placed upon them. The spate of schools closing early on Fridays, or consulting on whether to do so, is a symptom of this crisis, along with rising class sizes, cuts to the curriculum and fewer resources with which to provide support to vulnerable children.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), added: “Due to the school funding crisis headteachers are having to make decisions that no one working in schools and colleges ever thought they would have to make. The responsibility for all of this lies with the government and their refusal to fund our schools and colleges properly to ensure every child and young person gets the education they deserve.”

Asked about Ms Phillip's announcement, a spokesperson for the Department for Education said schools have had the flexibility to structure the school week as they choose for some time.

They added: “We know schools face budgeting challenges schools and are being asked to do more, however Birmingham receives per pupil funding significantly above the national average: in 2019-20, an average of £5,080 per pupil, well above the national average of £4,689. So we are also clear that schools in Birmingham should have no need to move to a shortened week for financial reasons.”

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