SATs row threatens 'Summer of discontent' in schools

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The Independent Online

Teachers' leaders are threatening the incoming government with a "summer of discontent" over public spending cuts and national curriculum tests.

They are also warning of strike action if there is any attempt to impose a pay freeze on teachers when a three-year deal runs out next year. Delegates to the National Union of Teachers (NUT) annual conference in Liverpool will be urged this weekend to back a call for strike action to oppose pay freezes, threats to their pensions and cuts in public services.

And union leaders will urge members to join in any co-ordinated campaign of industrial unrest with other public sector unions, such as health service workers and civil servants.

The Schools Secretary Ed Balls has already indicated there will have to be cuts totalling £1.1bn over two years in administrative costs. However, he has insisted front-line services such as schools will be protected. Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, argued: "Any cut is going to have an impact on the front-line services."

Action over spending cuts could happen as early as this summer as details of budget cuts become clearer. Teachers will receive the last stage of a three-year pay deal – a 2.3 per cent increase – in September. Michael Gove, the Tories' schools spokesman, has indicated there will be a public sector pay freeze by then if his party wins the election.

The NUT, in conjunction with the National Association of Head Teachers, is also balloting its members on boycotting national curriculum tests for 600,000 11-year-olds – due to start just four days after the expected general election date of 6 May. The results of the ballot are expected to be known on 16 April. Union leaders claim the "high stakes" of the tests – the results of which are used to compile league tables – have led to too much teaching for the tests in the final year of primary schooling.

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