There have been occasions in the past when the various teaching unions have shown solidarity and displayed a united front on certain issues. However, there is a real sense right now that unions are finally prepared to join forces and to genuinely unite like never before to send a clear and unequivocal message to the government: Enough is enough.
Was the autumn budget the catalyst for change?
The autumn budget prompted a mixture of consternation, disbelief and genuine anger from the teaching profession. The general consensus was that Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, had spectacularly failed to address the ongoing school and funding crisis. Unions point to a funding cut of over 20% to school sixth forms, and a real-terms fall of 8% in total school spending per pupil since 2010.
Unions take unprecedented step of joint consultation
Hammond’s inability to address the issue of funding cuts in education angered many, but it was actually the announcement by the Chancellor that £400m was being made available to schools to buy ‘little extras’ that was met with the most derision. Indeed, for some teachers this could well go down as the moment when the profession finally stood up and said, ‘Enough is enough!’
The NEU (National Education Union) has now taken the unprecedented step of joining forces with the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) and the ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders) to simultaneously consult with all members about what the next course of action should be.
Autumn Budget failed to meet unions’ Six Tests
There is utter dismay across the profession that Phillip Hammond appears to be in denial about the state that schools find themselves in up and down the country as a result of funding cuts. Unions argue that schools have a £2 billion funding shortfall each year. And, with Capital funding cut by a third, there is little sign of the situation improving.
Essentially, a one-off payment to cover ‘little extras’ will do absolutely nothing to address the funding cuts or continuing recruitment and retention crisis in schools.
Schools have seen curriculum options reduced, and cuts to student support, resources and maintenance budgets. The government also failed to implement the independent teacher review body’s pay recommendations in full.
But, it’s that simple two-word throwaway line: ‘little extras’ that may come back to haunt the government.
Ahead of the budget, the three unions set out ‘Six Tests’ of what schools and colleges needed. These are:
- Reverse school cuts now
- New money from the Treasury
- Fair funding of High needs, early years % post-16 education
- A 5-year funding plan
- Address historic under-funding
None of these tests were met through the autumn budget and the 3 unions are now united both in anger and a real determination to instigate action that will force the government to finally address the issues.
Nobody knows how this will unfold in 2019, but one thing is sure – teaching unions have never been as together as they are now.