Teachers consider industrial action after one-off bonus in Budget for ‘little extras’

'School leaders are sick to the stomach with having to reduce costs'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Monday 05 November 2018 18:48
Comments
'Simply a little extra': Philip Hammond defends school funding in Budget plan

Teachers and headteachers are considering industrial action after the chancellor gave schools a one-off £400m bonus to help buy “little extras” like whiteboards.

Three education unions will consult their members this month on what action to take over what they called the government’s “failure to address the school and college funding crisis” in last week’s Budget.

In an “unprecedented” move, the National Education Union (NEU), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) will ask school staff simultaneously what they want to do next – and strike action is not being ruled out.

It comes as a new Labour analysis reveals that annual spending on schools would be £1.7bn higher in 2019-20 if funding per pupil had been maintained in real terms since 2015.

Last week, chancellor Philip Hammond faced widespread backlash from teachers, parents and unions after he said many schools would be “very happy” to receive the “nice gesture” announced in the Budget – which is about £10,000 per primary school and £50,000 per secondary school.

Mr Hammond’s pledge provoked anger from the profession, whose members have been calling for more funding amid cuts to vital resources including teachers and support for pupils with special educational needs.

The one-off £400m windfall does not address the 8 per cent real-terms cut in total school spending per pupil over the past eight years, including cuts of over 20 per cent to sixth-form funding, the unions say.

In a joint statement, they said they were concerned the funding crisis was “putting educational standards at risk” and they said that more investment was needed “as a matter of urgency”.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said the union’s 19,000 members will be asked what they want to do next.

He told The Independent: “It is an unprecedented that you have got teacher unions and leader unions expressing on behalf of their membership the level of frustration there is.

“Not a day goes by where I do not hear from leaders who are sick to the stomach with having to reduce costs, and the only way they can do that is through shedding staff and restructuring.”

Mr Barton added that the “tone” of Mr Hammond’s announcement last week had proved a “flashpoint” for school leaders.

On the consultation, he said: “I would be surprised if members are not calling for a whole range of things. And there may be some who are calling for industrial action.”

According to reports from Tes, hundreds of thousands of NEU members will be asked to take part in a survey with one question specifically asking if teachers would vote for strike action.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “Enough is enough. Schools are being failed by a chancellor with a tin ear to the desperate situation they find themselves in.”

And it is understood that the NAHT is considering asking members what action they are personally prepared to take – which is likely to include industrial action.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, said: “Schools and young people are definitely much too far down the government’s list of priorities, and for them, austerity is most certainly not over.

“We will be taking all appropriate action to influence the content of the Spending Review in the spring.

“And we must be clear, only new money from the treasury will solve the school funding crisis.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “To invest in our children’s education, training and care is one of the most important investments that any country can make.

“That’s why the UK government spend the most in the G7 on primary and secondary education as a percentage of GDP, with the core schools budget reaching £43.5bn by 2019-20.

“The IFS have confirmed that real terms per pupil funding for five- to 16-year-olds in 2020 will be more than 50 per cent higher than it was in 2000.”

They added: “But the education secretary has been clear that he recognises the budgeting challenges for schools.

“To respond to those and to support the transition to the National Funding Formula, we have made available £1.3bn in additional funding since the last spending review and we are providing an additional £500m over the next two years so that teachers on the main pay range can get a 3.5 per cent pay rise this year.”

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