Angry parents rallied outside the ICC in Birmingham while Education Secretary Damien Hinds spoke inside in a bid to demonstrate their rage over funding cuts that they say have 'devastated' their school.

Around 50 parents and supporters, mostly from Kings Heath Primary, held a noisy protest at the conference hall doors to try to ensure the Minister heard how frustrated they were.

Kings Heath Primary is the latest city school to announce it is closing half a day a week - joining at least 15 others who have taken the same drastic measure. It will close on Fridays at 1pm from September.

Parents at the ICC protest over school cuts

"What is happening to our school and other schools across Birmingham is disgraceful. Our children are being denied the basic right of full time education," said furious parent Vanessa Duffy.

Head Shirley Hanson told parents in a letter earlier this month that half day closing alone might not be sufficient - and the school was also having to consider axing its expert provision for children with complex special needs

 

Parent Mike Fenton said his son Aaron, who has cerebral palsy, would be distraught if any cuts meant he would have to move to another school.

Aaron, aged nine, uses a wheelchair to help him get around and other aids to take part in sports including football and to ensure he plays a full part in school life. He requires assistance from staff as a result - but now the school fears it may no longer be able to support him and some of the estimated 15 other youngsters at the school with complex needs.

Aaron Fenton, a pupil of Kings Heath Primary

Said Mr Fenton: "We have had nothing but a positive experience from the first day Aaron started at the school. We have seen him grow in confidence and stature; he is treated like one of the boys and has come so far - but he does require some special support to get around.

"The school has gone way beyond what it needs to do for Aaron and he is doing incredibly well as a result. The school has been subsidising the costs of the care he requires because the funding given centrally is inadequate. Now the school may not be able to keep doing so.

Aaron Fenton, aged nine

"We are concerned not just for Aaron but for all the children that will come after him, who deserve to be in this inclusive, supportive environment where he has absolutely thrived."

He added: "The head has been communicating with us for three years about the funding pressures and we know how upsetting it is for her to have to consider these measures."

Parent Mike Fenton
 

Parent Lucy Bassett said the prospect of losing half a day of education every week was appalling. "It will cause a two tier system, with some schools able to afford to stay open and some closing. It will put huge pressure on single parents and working parents to have to juggle half day closing. The potential mpact on special needs education is also really worrying."

Education Secretary Mr Hinds was addressing the national conference of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) inside the ICC while protestors met outside.

A protest sign crafted by young pupils at Kings Heath Primary

Speaking to BirminghamLive after his speech, he did not respond directly when asked if he was comfortable with knowing schools were being forced to close early, except to say: "Some schools do open different hours on a Friday and that's not totally new.

"Schools have the freedom to do that as long as they achieve a certain number of lessons and do so in consultation with parents.

"We need clearly for all children to get the quality and quantity of teaching time they are entitled to and need. Within that, schools do have some flexibility but should do that in consultation with parents."

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the ASCL, a former head, said: "Early closing has to be unacceptable in the sixth biggest econony in the world."

The organisation represents around 19,000 school and college leaders across the UK.