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Here’s what you need to know about the march & strikes against Thomas Bennett cuts

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Image: Scott Barter

Just over a month after teachers at Thomas Bennett Community College voted overwhelmingly for strike action over recent funding cuts and job losses, more information on this has now come to light.

The average class size at Thomas Bennett has increased since 2014/15 and schoolcuts.org.uk estimate that by 2020 the reduction in the school’s annual budget will be £101,506.

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12 teachers and several support staff have reportedly quit their jobs at Thomas Bennett over the last couple of months and now the National Education Union have four days of strikes in place, commencing on Thursday (21 June).

Leader of Crawley Borough Council, Peter Lamb said:

“It takes a lot to get parents marching and teachers striking, but if these cuts are allowed to go through it is a green light for similar cuts across Crawley.

“We simply can’t allow a generation of children to go without the resources they need for a decent education, to do so would be a betrayal of everything past generations have sacrificed for ours and leave the UK’s without the ability to provide for its future.”

The march took place on Saturday (16 June), starting at Crawley Town Hall.

Protesters gather outside the Town Hall. Image: Scott Barter

The march began outside Crawley Town Hall on Saturday (16 June). Image: Scott Barter

A statement on a petition on change.org to stop the cuts at Thomas Bennett Community College, Crawley reads:

“The Kemnal Academy Trust (TKAT) is proposing dramatic cuts to Thomas Bennett Community College in Crawley that include scrapping the position of head teacher and closing the 6th Form.

“The cuts, if carried out, could see up to 20% cut in leadership posts, up to 15% cut in teachers (5 posts all in the SEN department) and up to 32% cut in support staff.

“Pupils with the greatest need could be hardest hit, with the Special Educational Needs Department being cut by up to 40% and the Education and Welfare Team who look after student well-being by 30%.”

The march continued through the High Street and into Queens Square, where participants assembled for a family friendly picnic, with speakers and entertainment for children.

Image: Scott Barter

Speaking on behalf of National Education Union members, teacher and NEU Rep Alexander Ramiz said:

“The march that took place on Saturday involved people from the community, the students at Thomas Bennett Community College and their parents, and it was inspiring to see so many prepared to take a stand against the devastating cuts to education. This followed an earlier meeting of community members that had well over a hundred and fifty people attending and pledging support. 

“The members of the National Education Union who took part in the march were made up of everyone from teachers and teaching assistants to support staff and school administrators, from senior colleagues who have been at the school for years to more junior colleagues who have only recently joined us. This clearly shows that the vast majority of people understand that the current levels of funding are not enough, and they are now prepared to do something about it.

Protesters, accompanied by police, marching through Crawley. Image: Scott Barter

“People from the local community who have already formed their own campaign group have contacted the County Council, the Regional Schools Commissioner, the academy chain, Henry Smith (the MP for Crawley) and the DFE. I am looking forward to seeing what they can achieve in wanting more say over how their taxes are spent, and in fulfilling their ambitions of demanding better education for the young people of Crawley, especially for those students who have special educational needs.

“The NEU have announced Industrial Action to commence this Thursday. Despite claims from the academy chain that this was timed to cause maximum disruption, my members voted to delay strike action to avoid causing any disruption to the end of year examinations. Everything that we are doing is in the best interests of the students and the community, and I would invite local residents to come along and pledge their support to us when we are on the picket line from 7.30am.

“I expect the community campaign to grow from strength to strength. I myself have been invited to attend the Tilgate Community Forum meeting on 7th July at 7.30pm at the Tilgate Community Centre on Shackleton Road to represent the views of my members and to discuss what has been happening at Thomas Bennett Community College. I shall certainly be attending and I am looking forward to some lively debate. It is my hope that the academy chain shall also accept their invitation to this event.”

Ifield Councillor, Peter Smith. Image: Scott Barter

Thomas Bennett isn’t the only school in the area facing cuts, however; Broadfield Primary Academy will see and estimated reduction of £313,532 by 2020 – that’s a massive £574 per pupil.

The cuts will undoubtedly have a huge impact on students’ education and will add to the increasing pressure put on teachers.

Many locals will be showing their support at the first strike on 21st June and are urging others to join them at the Thomas Bennett Community College gates at 7.30am.

Cn24 contacted TKAT on Friday (15 June) and are awaiting a response.

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Education

Crawley’s St Wilfrid’s teachers come together for special end of year video

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The staff at St Wilfrid’s were not going to let a virus stop them from doing their end of year video.

Niamh Slatter, St Wilfrid’s Media Technician said:

‘It’s definitely been a bit more of a challenge than usual! A lot of work has gone into this video, from the planning stages, filming tutorials for staff to copy, and the monster task of editing footage from 50+ members of staff in a very short space of time!

All of the footage has been recorded by staff members from home so as to observe social distancing, and sent over to be edited! A slightly different take on our usual end of year videos, but we’ve done it St Wilfrid’s style!’

So sit back and enjoy!

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