More than two thousand headteachers have marched from Parliament Square to Downing Street to deliver a petition requesting extra cash for schools.
The letter, which was addressed to Chancellor Phillip Hammond, said the current education funding situation was “unsustainable”.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), which organised the march, said there had been a “fantastic turnout” revealing the widespread frustration and anger among school leaders.
Jason Pritchard, the Labour councillor for Portsoken in the City of London, was on his way to work when he happened across the protest. Speaking to HuffPost UK, he described feeling obligated to participate out of “solidarity” for the cause and concern over the Tory party’s policies.
He said: “It’s tremendous to see so many people gathering to protest against the cuts. It’s a really bold statement for headteachers to say ‘enough is enough’.
“The government can’t continue with these cuts. It is having a big effect on the schools and obviously, the headteachers are trying to deliver the best they can with the small budgets they’ve got.
“This is a breaking point,” he added.
Carol Simpson, a social worker in Lambeth, said: “This is really unbelievable to see headteachers, on this scale, coming from all over the country and marching on Downing Street. Has this ever happened before? I don’t think so.”
Fiona Thorpe, co-headteacher of Fulbourn Primary School in Cambridgeshire told HuffPost UK: “Headteachers are relentlessly reasonable. We’ve been really reasonable about the financial situation that we’ve been in but it’s just enough now.
“We’re being expected to do more and more with the money that we have and that’s at a time where other services are being cut and schools are picking up the slack. So, for example, mental health services, social care services, physical therapies – the school is having to do a lot more of that sort of work.”
John Lear, head of West Leigh Junior School in Southend-on-Sea said: “We’re not a militant bunch of people, we’re just here apolitically to say ‘enough is enough’. We need more funding in education and there are some urgent priority areas like special educational needs and the post-16 sector.”
Earlier this year, figures from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) revealed the number of secondary schools in England running at a loss had nearly trebled.
The study, published in March, said the number of council-run secondary schools in deficit dropped from 14.3% in 2010/11 to 8.8% in 2013/14, but between 2013/14 and 2016/17, the number in deficit nearly trebled to 26.1%.
In July, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said total school spending per pupil fell around 8% in real terms in England between 2009/10 and 2017/18.
In response, the Government said it was spending record amounts on schools.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “There is more money going into schools than ever before, rising to a record £43.5bn by 2020 – 50% more in real terms per pupil than in 2000.
“Every school attracts more funding per pupil through the National Funding Formula, high needs funding has risen to over £6bn this year, and the 3.5% pay rise we announced for classroom teachers on the main pay range is backed by £508m Government funding.”
But Garston Manor School head, Christine deGraft-Hanson, disagreed with the government’s assertion. She said she’d pose two questions to the government if she were at the Conservative Party conference, which starts tomorrow in Birmingham.
“Do the children of the UK deserve the best? And if they do, why not fund them appropriately?,” she asked.