A UNION leader has warned teachers’ jobs could be lost at every school in the country because of a “funding crisis” - which is creating a shortfall of at least £50m in some parts of the county.
The National Union of Teachers is poised to call for a strike ballot over “severe funding cuts” which it fears will leave schools struggling to meet the cost of increases in pay, pension and National Insurance contributions for its staff.
Treasurer and former Yorkshire branch official Ian Murch told delegates at the NUT conference, in Harrogate, yesterday that although the two main parties had vowed to defend education spending - the reality was a major real terms cut.
This was partly down to unfunded increases in schools’ employer pension contributions and NI payments, he said.
Schools face increased pension costs from this September and rising NI costs in 2016/17. Mr Murch said: “It’s too late for most schools to do much cutting this September 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 said instead of asking “how can we improve?” Schools will be forced to ask: “How can we increase class sizes? How can we cut?”
The union debate comes as figures show schools in Yorkshire will face tens of millions in extra costs without extra funding. The Schools Forum in Leeds has warned the extra costs of pension and staff pay in 2015/16 will be £5.3m and by 2016/17 with increased NI contributions coming into effect the extra costs will rise to £15.5m. In Bradford head teachers have been warned that schools could face a shortfall of £28m by 2016/17. A council report to the Bradford Schools Forum said it was expected that the majority of schools would not be able to balance their books by the end of 2016/17.
East Riding Council estimate increased pension costs to its schools will be more than £1m in 2015/16 rising to £1.731m in 2016/17. Next year schools will also faced increase NI contributions of £2.4m. Wakefield Council provided estimated figures for the 76 maintained schools in the city but not the 61 academies. These showed a £509,000 increase of in school pension contributions in 2015/16 rising to £872,000 in 2016/17. Rotherham Council predicts an increased pension costs for schools of £601,783 in 2015/16. These figures only represent one third of the education authorities in Yorkshire - so the overall extra costs facing schools will be far higher.
At the NUT conference yesterday delegates debated a priority motion about the “funding crisis.”
It was suggested the union set a new government a deadline of the Autumn Statement to pledge to protect school budgets. If this does not happen it could trigger a ballot on industrial action, including strikes. A final vote on the motion was not reached yesterday but is expected this week.