Yesterday’s march in London attracted a much younger crowd as pupils protested against the government’s plan to remove Education Maintenance Allowance, raise tuition fees and cut higher education funding.
Michael Farley, principal of Poplar High Street College in Tower Hamlets, supports those who protested against education spending cuts. “My fear is that many will choose not to study full-time and will be in neither employment nor education,” he said.
Schools and sixth-form colleges across the four boroughs deny that their pupils attended the demonstration, despite the majority of protestors being 15-18 year olds.
Council offices are not releasing the number of school children reported absent yesterday.
Around 50 pupils from Haberdashers Aske’s Hatcham College in New Cross attended the march and many of them were in the crowd that were detained by police on Parliament Street until 8pm.
One pupil, Jack, 15, said others from Haberdashers had their parents’ permission to join the ‘Carnival of Resistance’ but not that of the school. He also had parental “permission to speak to journalists” as he felt that protesters were being misrepresented in the press.
The principal of the college refused to comment.
Aaron Porter, president of the NUS, said: “Peaceful protest is a vital way of showing the government that huge numbers of students, parents and families are justifiably angry about the proposed education cuts.”
James Haywood, an officer on the Goldsmiths college student union, was unable to attend the protest due to his arrest at the demonstration two weeks ago, but urges students to take further action.
He said: “I think the police were absolutely outrageous yesterday. It was true bully-boy tactics at work.”
“We’ve gone from a 50,000 national demo to a national mobilisation numbering over 130,000, so the momentum is there and we just need to keep fighting this government.”
Many people were concerned about the level of force being used against schoolchildren as young as fourteen in the police containment areas known as “kettles”.
Sean Lynch, 25, a Goldsmiths student, said: “When Nick Clegg said we were going to see ‘the biggest shake-up of our civil rights since 1832’, did that include kettling schoolchildren for nine hours without food, water or toilets?”
Ken Livingstone attended a meeting at BSix College in Clapton to sign a petition against the proposed education cuts.
Ken Warman, headteacher was “really pleased” that Mr Livingstone supported his students in their “constructive action against EMA”.
He said: “My first priority, however, is that the students achieve; so next time they should protest on a Saturday!”
Following the media attention of yesterday’s march the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is planning another day of action next Tuesday.
The campaign’s Facebook group is encouraging students across the country to take action next week and has already attracted 9,744 members.