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Heads march on Downing Street demanding 'don't take us for fools' on funding

Headteachers from across England and Wales march towards Downing Street in London to demand extra cash for schools. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday September 28, 2018. See PA story EDUCATION Headteachers. Photo credit should read: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

By Emma Bowden, Press Association

Hundreds of headteachers have marched on Downing Street to demand extra cash for schools.

Organisers claimed more than 2,000 heads from England, Wales and Northern Ireland took part in the protest, double the number they had expected.

They gathered in Parliament Square before converging on Downing Street, where a delegation delivered a letter to Chancellor Phillip Hammond protesting over what they claim are "unsustainable" funding cuts and demanding ministers do not take them for "fools".

The protest was organised by Worth Less?, which describes itself as a grassroots campaign for more money to tackle issues such as overcrowded classrooms, staff recruitment and retention, and poor working conditions.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), said: "It's a fantastic turnout and although it's supported by the unions, it's not arranged by them.

"This is an organic experience of school-leader frustration and anger."

Rob Kelsall, one of the organisers, told the Press Association: "We are seeing schools - both maintained and academies - that are seeing their funds depleted, dipping into their reserves, and having to send out begging letters to parents.

"This is not through choice, this is because there is no alternative."

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has voiced support for the protest.

She said: "This unprecedented action by headteachers is a clear sign of the desperate struggle they now face to provide a decent education while balancing the books."

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 £43.5 billion 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 £6 billion this year, and the 3.5% pay rise we announced for classroom teachers on the main pay range is backed by £508 million Government funding."

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