Cries of “Thatcher, Thatcher! Milk snatcher!” haunted Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher until her dying day. Her decision to remove free milk from schools seemed to sum up the absence of compassion from Conservative policy. Theresa May’s general election manifesto contains a far greater theft. The current Conservative leader is coming for the whole school dinner.
Free school meals
The provision of free school meals has long provided critical support to children from impoverished homes. Because hungry children struggle to learn.
Labour’s manifesto pledges universal free school meals for all children, to remove the stigma of those who currently require means testing. It will be funded by a small tax on private education fees.
In contrast, Theresa May is coming after free school dinners. Pledging instead, a free school breakfast. Conservatives say the policy will be an improvement and increase provision to children, while simultaneously arguing it will save £650m a year. So let’s be clear, this is a cut. In additional to wider budget cuts of 3% on thousands of schools.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reminded voters of the broken promises of the Conservatives on education.
Conservatives promised to protect school spending, but per pupil spending is going down and class sizes are soaring. #ToryManifesto
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— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 18, 2017
And Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney told The Mirror:
Margaret Thatcher was known as the ‘milk snatcher’. Theresa May will go down as the lunch snatcher.
Children under Theresa May will go hungry: it is that stark, and that heartless. But she just doesn’t care.
The decision has been met with widespread anger.
Margaret Thatcher only took milk from infant children, Theresa May plans to take their whole dinner.#torymanifesto
— Stuart Kelly (@S_E_Kelly) May 18, 2017
— Matt Sims (@Mercifull) May 18, 2017
The school of hard knocks
The cuts come at a critical time for students and teachers alike. England is facing an education crisis thanks to relentless cuts by the Conservatives. This crisis is so severe that headteachers have been writing to parents to warn them. Helen Williamson, headteacher of Billingshurst Primary School in West Sussex, wrote:
Please realise doing nothing and changing nothing will mean a vastly reduced education system for all children and, I for one, am not prepared to let this happen on my watch without causing a serious fuss.
Please join me in expressing that very loud and clear to those who have the power to give us the resources to ensure a world-class education system that has every child equally at its heart.
The Conservative approach to education has also been condemned by Joanna Yurky, a parent and co-founder of the Fair Funding For All Schools campaign. She told The Guardian:
Theresa May has not kept her promise to parents. Under this government, funding per pupil is going down.
This is having a damaging impact on schools and children across the country. The government seems to be in denial about this. This budget shows the money is available. But instead of investing in hard-pressed schools that are losing staff, increasing class sizes and cutting the curriculum, the prime minister is allocating resources to pet projects that no one voted for.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) agrees with the assessment of teachers and parents, confirming that these are the ‘deepest cuts’ to education for 30 years. Ironically, since Thatcher was Prime Minister.
The decision facing voters on 8 June is stark. A fully-funded National Education Service under Labour, or the misery manifesto from the Conservatives. You decide.
– Register to vote in the 8 June general election. If you don’t have a national insurance number, a 5 minute phone call on 0300 200 3500 will get it sent to you in ten days.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Also read more Canary articles on the 2017 general election.
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