Teachers vote on strike over cuts
Schoolchildren could face disruption before the end of the year after teachers voted for a post-election ballot on national strikes over education funding cuts.
Delegates at the National Union of Teachers annual conference in Harrogate backed a resolution effectively giving the next government a six-month deadline to come up with a fresh plan to protect school spending, or face industrial action, including walkouts.
They warned that the looming funding cuts currently faced by schools and colleges will damage pupils' education, lead to job losses and hit teachers' pay, pensions and workload.
The motion passed unanimously by delegates, who applauded afterwards.
Jan Nielsen, an NUT member from Wandsworth, south London, said this was an opportunity for the union to stand up and "to be part of an active anti-austerity movement".
"We are going to take the head of a movement that says our schools at the moment are damaging our children, they are not good enough for the children we teach, they are not good enough for teachers, they are not good enough for families," she said.
During an extensive debate yesterday, teachers issued calls for action against a squeeze on budgets, with one warning that the opportunities of a generation of children should not be "sacrificed on the altar of austerity".
The priority motion expresses concerns about school spending and urges political parties to make clear commitments to protect funding in the future.
It calls for an incoming government to be set a deadline of the autumn statement, adding that if there is no clear pledge to properly protect budgets at that stage, then the union should look at triggering 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, 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 schools 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."
Proposing an amendment, which was accepted, 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."
A Conservative Party spokesman has previously said: " We have had to make difficult decisions to tackle the record deficit we inherited, but we have protected spending on schools in real terms and spending per pupil has gone up over the course of this parliament.
"We have committed to protect the money that schools receive for every individual child they teach. As pupil numbers rise, so will the amount of money that schools receive."