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THOUSANDS of demonstrators from across the country gathered in central London today to call for better further education funding in the face of £3 billion cuts from Tory austerity.
The march was part of the Love Our Colleges campaign, organised by the Association of Colleges, National Union of Students, University and College Union (UCU), GMB, the TUC, National Education Union and Unison.
Protesters assembled in Westminster and marched to Parliament Square, chanting: “The money’s there, we want our share.”
On arrival, they heard speeches by trade unionists, politicians and campaigners.
Labour's shadow education secretary Angela Rayner told the crowd she was “so sorry” that the current government doesn’t value the work of education staff.
“They know the cost of everything but the value of nothing,” she said of the Tories.
“If they are not prepared to invest in the future, they need to move aside, because we will."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Higher education is a pathway for the liberation of many of our young people and a pathway for older people to discover new opportunities.
“But it’s also an area where many people work. The way that the staff have been treated by this government is disgraceful.
“Unless we fund our colleges properly, treat staff properly and give young people the chance to study, then the skilled workers of tomorrow are simply being denied a place unless their parents are wealthy enough to buy something for them.”
Mr Corbyn challenged Prime Minister Theresa May’s claim that austerity is over, saying: “There is no end to austerity so long as this lot remain in office.”
National Education Union joint secretary Mary Bousted called for “proper pay” for lecturers, while Unison head of education John Richards pointed out that support staff have “suffered huge cuts” and “wholesale undermining” of their terms and conditions.
Sean Vernell of UCU said that, if the government did not boost funding, workers would strike “again, again and again” until their demand is met.
Mr Vernell added that mental health in colleges was deteriorating because of the government's austerity policies.
Many institutions, including New City College in east London, closed their doors so that staff and students could join the march.
Funding for further education and skills has been cut by over £3 billion in real terms since the Tories came to power in 2010, according to an analysis by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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