Brent: Students lock hands in schools cuts protest

Some 1,500 students held hands in a human chain to protest against education cuts

Around 1,500 students joined hands to form a human chain from two Brent schools in a poignant protest at cuts to the school building programme.

Pupils and teachers at Alperton and Copland Community Schools locked arms in a demonstration which snaked for a mile along Wembley High Street and Ealing Road.

Staged on Tuesday, just hours before the Government announced its litany of cuts in the Comprehensive Spending Review, the protest was to raise awareness of the desperate state of the schools’ buildings.

Both Alperton and Copland were in talks with architects to overhaul their sites as part of an �80 million Brent wide Buiding Schools for the Future (BSF) project when in July Education Secretary Michael Gove announced he was scrapping the scheme.

Maggie Rafee, is head of Alperton, where children are taught in buildings with leaking roofs, loose wiring and cracks in the gym wall.

She said: “We wanted to give the children a voice and draw politicians’ attention to their disappointment after not getting a new school through BSF.

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“Our schools are most in need in terms of a shortage of school places and the very poor state of our buildings, so we should be at the top of the list for any new school building scheme. Our students deserve better.”

Traders across Wembley rallied behind the protest by pinning up posters of support in their shop windows.

The Government has said that it plans to replace BSF with its own capital investment programme which will allow individual schools to apply for funding rather than local authorities.

However, it has yet to announce the scheme’s details, and headteachers say they are not expecting to be told until November, leaving students to face more months of uncertainty in crumbling classrooms.

Graeme Plunkett, headteacher at Copland School, in Cecil Avenue, Wembley, said: “The state of our building simply fails to meet the vision of our teachers and staff and it undermines the hard work of our students.

“The loss of BSF funding has been a critical blow and government ministers need to consider the needs of young people and invest in their future.”

Wembley North MP Barry Gardner, who helped organise the protest, said: “This money was critical to the future of these schools and the future of our children.

“The Join Hands event is our way of urging the government to examine the desperate educational need in these schools and reinstate the grant.”