Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Cross school students set to join protests

School students from Haberdashers Aske's Hatcham Academy in New Cross have pledged to walk out of school next Wednesday 24th November to take part in the national day of action against the education cuts. So far 100 people have signed up to the 'HAHC-Walk out in solidarity with day of action against education cuts' facebook page, where they say:


On the 24th of November there will be a national day of action against the cuts that are being taken to raise university tuition fees and cut all funding for arts and humanities at higher education level. Universities and schools alike will be taking a stand against the Tory and liberal democrats plans to make massive cuts to higher education.

We are asking YOU to join us in a mass walk out from the school. (Meeting in the Pepys site hall at 10:35, for an 11:00 leave.) We will march to goldsmiths, where we will meet with hundreds of other students. We will then travel to a rally that will be meeting at 12 in Trafalgar square, this will be followed by marching to a currently undisclosed location, due to possibilities of police intervention, the ending location will be announced closer to the event, but the meeting is Trafalgar square at noon!

So, if you want to fight for your right to a better education, for more chances in life and for the opportunity to have a qualification which doesn't put you in debt for the rest of your life, join us as we march out of the school and as we join the masses to battle against the unfair and unequal choices being made by the government. You saw what happened at the Tory HQ the other days. That was just the beginning. The future is now, and we are the future, so lets fight for a better one'

An article in Saturday's Guardian reported that thousands of school students around the country are planning to stage protests next week. It also interviewed Jack, a 15-year-old pupil at Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College:

'We're going to be the first generation of students to be given this rise in fees and we need to have our voices heard, and there's no other way to do it without disobeying. A couple of us went to Goldsmiths to meet some of the students who demonstrated the other week and it was great, there was a really great atmosphere, and they said they were really inspired by what we're doing. In a way they're fighting for us. And we've had support from other schools, and there's another school who are planning to do this too, a 6th form college in Greenwich...

I've never done anything like this before but it feels really brilliant to have some say in it all, to have some power over what's going on. We've had students who say this isn't going to get you anywhere. But where do they think saying 'this won't get you anywhere' is going to get them?"'

Seems like other schools will also be affected. There was a meeting last Thursday in Brixton of South London Further Education Students Against the Cuts to organise for the November 24th demonstrations. It included school students from Lambeth Academy, Dulwich Charter, Haberdashers Askes, Graveney School, Sydenham, Elm Green and Harris Academies as well as FE students from Lambeth College. Here's a short film from the meeting of an anti-cuts rap by an Aske's student:

The 2003 Protests

In this country it is quite rare for school students to take action in this way, unlike in France where in the recent struggles against pension changes students from the Lycées were prominent on the streets as they have been in previous social movements. In Britain protesting school students are still often treated as naughty children rather than as young adults.

The last time there was significant agitation amongst school students was back in March 2003 when, just before the invasion of Iraq, thousands of them walked out of school and converged on Whitehall to stage a demonstration. On that occasion too, students walked out from Haberdashers Aske's in New Cross and some of them were interviewed in The Times (20 March 2003):

'A clutch of 14-year-old girls from Haberdashers’ Aske’s in New Cross, South London, said that teachers had refused to let them stage a protest outside the school, even though they had parental permission.

“They threatened us with suspensions and detentions. Someone set off a fire alarm and the fire brigade arrived. We distracted the teachers, legged it and got the train here,” Naomi Benjamini said. “It’s important that we show Tony Blair we are against war. Our opinion matters as much as anyone’s.”

Sam Kinloch, 14, was one of of about 70 pupils who ran out of lessons at Langley Park School for Boys in Bromley, South London, and caught the train into town. He said: “It’s my first time on a protest, but I’ll be back when war is declared. It’s a brilliant atmosphere and there’s so many people from school here so we shouldn’t get into trouble.”

(Posters for this week's protests on the walls of Goldsmiths College)

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