Burnley students protest over higher education cuts

DISHEARTENED students are voicing their fears over potential Government cuts to higher education.

Thursday, 25th November 2010, 8:38 am

A national walkout at schools, colleges and universities was held across the country this week and a demonstration is also planned outside Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle’s surgery tomorrow (Friday).

Hundreds of pupils gathered outside Unity College armed with banners and placards to show their support while a number of Burnley College students also staged a walkout at the Princess Road site.

Jospeh Rainbird (16), a senior prefect in Year 11 at Unity who helped organise the protest, said: “Burnley has got some of the best new schools in the country. We have just got this brand new school building but we are getting everything else taken away from us.

“We care about our education and have come out to do something about it. We want to change things. A lot of people at the college have come out to protest.”

Brendan McLaughlan, a Year 11 pupil who also helped organise the walkout, added: “Students are struggling to get through college. If David Cameron takes the funding away it is going to be a lot harder to get into college.”

Headteacher Sally Cryer called the students’ action “spirited”. She said: “I don’t agree with protests and missing lessons but the students are passionate about their learning.

“The students need their money. If they have not got that support at home then they need it. Our drive is to be the best we can be and we want all the students to go to college and university.”

Speaking outside Burnley College, Mr Andy Makin, from the Socialist Workers Party, said he had come to lend his support to the campaign as education mattered. “We have spoken to a lot of people here who have said they are not going to be able to go to university if the fees go up. Some students are even fearing they won’t be able to finish the courses they have started.”

Anthony Clark is one of those students, currently taking A-Levels including politics and maths. “I don’t think everybody is aware of what is happening,” he said. “It’s an important issue though. There’s a chance I won’t be going to university because I won’t be able to afford it.”

In a separate protest tomorrow Preston-based UCLan students will travel to Burnley Library for a peaceful demonstration outside Mr Birtwistle’s constituency surgery at 4 p.m. with Burnley students encouraged to attend.

It is the latest leg of action taken by the UCLan Students’ Union campaign “Why Pay More To Get Less” who believe Mr Birtwistle is going to go back on his pledge to vote against any increase in student fees.

However Mr Birtwistle feels he has done his best to try to meet students to allay their fears. “There are people with very serious issues who come to my weekly surgeries and desperately need help with their problems; I think it is completely inappropriate for the surgery to be hijacked in this way.

“I am happy to keep dialogue open with the students but feel that properly arranged meetings are much more constructive for all involved.”