Members of the National Union of Teachers are expected to walk out on July 5 in a one-day strike over pay and working conditions — the latest move in a series of labour struggles that threaten to affect the coming academic year.
The decision to strike came after 91.7% of union members voted in favor of industrial action after a recent poll suggested that funding meant to help disadvantaged students is being used by a “growing” number of schools due to budget cuts, reports Alexander Robertson for The Daily Mail.
The union said its demands included an increase to funding for schools and education, that terms and conditions need to be guaranteed at all types of schools, and negotiations on teacher contracts need to be resumed in order to allow the topic of workload to be redressed.
Kevin Courtney, the acting general secretary of the NUT, said the union believes the time for action is now. He added that teachers cannot be expected to continue to work as funding cuts continue, in addition to worsening terms and working conditions and increasingly onerous workloads, reports Scott Campbell for The Mirror.
Courtney went on to say that all of this could negatively affect children’s education:
“As a result of school funding cuts, class sizes in primary and secondary schools are increasing, subject choices are being cut, and children are getting less individual attention as teachers and support staff are made redundant or not replaced when they leave.
He stated that the situation is expected only to get worse as the Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests that the largest real-term cuts to per-pupil funding in a generation are still to come.
Courtney added that teacher recruitment and retention were already significant problems for schools, saying the issues will become more severe unless a change is made to the pay and working conditions of teachers.
He said that a number of parents shared the view of teachers, and that, at the very least, schools need the extra funding in order to meet the requirements of the Government in terms of increased National Insurance and pension payments, which he said results in a 5% charge on the teachers’ pay bill for schools.
He went on to say that schools are looking for an additional teacher’s salary to give to the Treasury for every 20 teachers employed.
“The commitment from Government to ensure all schools become academies will result in decisions on pay and working conditions, including maternity/paternity rights and sick pay, being made at school level. There is absolutely no evidence that this sort of deregulation will lead to higher standards. There needs to be a guarantee of good standards for teachers’ terms and conditions across the board, in all schools. School leaders’ attention should be on educating children, not squandering huge amounts of time on negotiating individual staff members’ contracts.”
Members of the NUT who work in local authority schools in England participated in the ballot. Close to 210,000 ballot papers were issued with a turnout rate of 24.5%. While 4,285 voted no, the majority — 47,218, or 91.7% — voted yes.
Courtney said he believed unions representing school support staff would back the actions of the NUT, adding that funding cuts had “taken off” since the general election.
He said that while class sizes are continuing to increase, teachers are not being replaced and many course topics are being dropped.
However, a spokesman for the Department for Education called the decision to strike “unnecessary and damaging,” pointing out that less than 25% of the members voted in favor of it. He added that despite offers from the Department to discuss the concerns shared by the union about pay, NUT has not agreed to do so and has instead opted to strike, which he said is damaging to the education of students and disruptive to the lives of parents who will need to find other arrangements for childcare.