The National Union of Teachers (NUT) have threatened to hold a national strike next term over budget cuts that have led to job losses, activity cuts, lessons being cancelled and forcing staff to leave the profession altogether.
The NAT has repeatedly called for the government to put an end to the 1 per cent pay cap on the public sector and restore the real term pay losses teachers have suffered since 2010.
The vote to strike arose after Jo Yurky, co-founder of the Fair Funding For All Schools campaign told delegates at its annual conference in Cardiff that one school has been financially squeezed so much so that children wore hats and coats in their classroom for two weeks in January to save money on heating bills.
She went on to say “Who would want their child to be in that classroom? Nobody. How does it help the child to learn? It doesn’t.”
“This is the state of things because there is a significant financial problem with our schools.”
“The reason we are angry about it is because the Government does not accept there is a problem.”
At another school a Spanish lesson was being taught by a teacher who could not speak a single word of the language.
A school in Haringey, North London couldn’t afford to buy textbooks the pupils needed, but they also can’t afford to photocopy them because that budget has also been cut.
There are also claims a primary school had to cut a teaching post, a teaching assistant post, its music club and its science club to save money.
The NUT’s general secretary, Kevin Courtney, said he would consult his union’s members before pushing ahead with any strike, national or regional.
However, as the union has an active ballot for strike action valid until August 31, before the NUT merges with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) this could be used as the legal basis for strike.
He said: “There are places where the cuts are so bad and the degree of concern so big that strike action is a real possibility. We will consult with colleagues in the regions about the readiness of members to do this.”
“If Justine Greening announces the funding formula is changing to make things even worse in some areas, that would be very likely to raise the level of anger in those areas to a point where action will take place.”
“Already class sizes are increasing, school staff levels are being cut or jobs not being replaced, subjects are disappearing from the curriculum and materials and resources are scarce. This clearly cannot go on.”
The NASUWT teachers’ union, has warned that schools are relying on donations from parents to for funding with some paying more than £400 per year. One parent told the NASUWT her daughter had been there a term and had received letters every week asking for money. Another parent said: “The school asks for a ‘voluntary contribution’ but if you forget to pay you are sent texts telling you that you haven’t paid.”
The union’s leader Chris Keates said that “access to education must not be based on parents’ ability to pay.”
Speaking in favour of the motion, James Kerr, a delegate from Lewisham in south-east London, said: “It’s absolutely correct to say national strike action should not be off the table.”
While the vote was for a one-day strike, Mr Kerr said the union should be prepared for further action. “This has to be not the ending but the start,” he said. “We can’t rely on wishful thinking, we cannot rely on an isolated one-day strike, then go back to business as usual.”
Cleo Lewis, also from Lewisham, said: “We have been passive for too long. The government knows that we have been passive, the government have taken advantage of that, and I’ve had enough. Nothing gets changed by sitting and discussing… at the end of the day the government are not accepting our nice words we need to show them that we are serious.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Education (DfE) has defended this, claiming the DfE is aware of schools facing cost pressure but that spending on schools is at the highest levels on record at £40 billion in 2016-17. The DfE claim to have protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010.
Kevin Courtney, the NUT’s general secretary, said: “At a time of a crisis in teacher supply and a buoyant graduate recruitment market, the government needs to do much more to make teaching an attractive profession.”
The NUT has warned the Government several times if it continues its strategy of below-inflation pay awards for teachers, cutting the real value of pay and reducing its competitiveness, teacher supply problems will persist and the quality of education provision will decline.”
Any ballot would have to require at least 50% of the turnout – and receive support of at least 40% of all those entitled to vote – to trigger industrial action.
April 19, 2017