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 looming funding cuts faced by schools and colleges will damage pupils’ education, lead to job losses and hit teachers’ pay, pensions and workload.
The motion was passed unanimously.
During a debate on Sunday, teachers issued calls for action and urged political parties to make clear commitments to protect funding.
The motion called 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 rises in pupil numbers, the union said.
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 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.”
The NUT’s Halifax-based treasurer Ian Murch said: “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.”
Anne Lemon, of the NUT’s executive, said research suggested that all the main political parties spending plans for education could lead to up to a 12 per cent cut in funding.
A Conservative Party spokesman said spending per pupil had gone up over the course of this parliament.
* A teaching union has branded caffeine and energy drinks as “legal highs” and warned about their negative impact on pupils’ behaviour in schools.
The NASUWT teaching union is working with drug and alcohol charity Swanswell to examine the consumption of drinks such as Red Bull, Monster and Relentless.
Teachers have reported increasing concerns about the effect on behaviour, concentration and energy levels as a result of the drinks, which contain high levels of caffeine and sugar.
Some 13 per cent of teachers who responded to a survey by the NASUWT cited caffeine and energy drinks as a likely cause of poor pupil behaviour in the classroom.