Teachers' action call over funding
Severe funding cuts to schools and colleges would damage pupils' education, lead to job losses and impact on teachers' pay, pensions and workload, it has been suggested.
Teachers have issued calls for action against a looming squeeze on budgets, with one warning that the opportunities of a generation of children should not be "sacrificed on the altar of austerity".
Delegates at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) annual conference in Harrogate have been debating a priority motion raising concerns about school spending and calling on political parties to make clear commitments to protect funding in the future.
It raised the prospect of setting an incoming government a deadline of the autumn statement, saying that if there is no clear pledge to properly protect budgets at that stage, then the union could trigger a ballot on industrial action, including strikes.
As well as dealing with real-term cuts since 2010, from this September schools will also have to find more money for increases in pensions and National Insurance costs, as well as coping with continuing rises in pupil numbers, the union has said.
Proposing the resolution, which was later adjourned, Jerry Glazier of the NUT's executive, said: "Ever since the 2010 election, the word austerity has been used as a stick to beat public services time and time again.
"Austerity damages children's education, austerity damages children's life chances and austerity damages those who are most vulnerable in society, and particularly those vulnerable children."
He added: "The priority motion is a crucial component of our our ongoing pay, pensions and workload campaign. Failure to fund school properly will directly, negatively impact on pay, directly negatively impact on pensions and directly negatively impact on the workload of teachers."
NUT treasurer Ian Murch told the conference: "If we want our children's education to be safe after the election, we have a real fight on our hands."
"It's too late for most schools to do much cutting this September," he suggested. "So early next year across England and Wales as employers face up to these financial realities there will be a night of the long knives in every school and college as teaching staff are cut, as support staff are cut and as programmes and courses are cut."
He added: " We will not let the opportunities of a generation of children be sacrificed on the altar of austerity."
Putting forward an amendment to the resolution, Anne Lemon, of the NUT's executive, said it was shocking that research published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggested that all of the main political parties spending plans for education could lead to up to a 12% cut in funding.
"That means that one out of every £8 spent at present will not be spent," she said.
"The level of cuts are so unprecedented that it starts to signal extraordinary times in education," Ms Lemon argued.
She told delegates: "This amendment is saying that in the autumn statement, whoever gets into power, we will clearly know at that point what their funding plans are for education. If there's no change, if they're going to carry out these 12% cuts, that's the trigger for the NUT to take action. That's the trigger to call members for a ballot.
The debate was adjourned and will return for further consideration tomorrow or Tuesday.