Education & Family

Teachers delay decision on school funding strike vote

NUT strike
Image caption The NUT conference will hear warnings that schools face a funding shortfall

Teachers have delayed a vote calling for a ballot on strike action over threats to school funding in England.

The National Union of Teachers says schools could face "terrible cuts" if the next government does not protect them from rising financial pressures.

Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems have pledged to protect school cash.

But rises in pay, pensions and national insurance contributions will place extra pressures on school budgets along with rising pupil numbers.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has estimated that even with these pledges to protect spending at current levels, rising costs will mean schools could face up to a 12% shortfall on their budgets over the next five years.

'Very difficult'

Delegates at the NUT conference in Harrogate debated the issues for more than an hour discussing four different amendments, before running out of time.

The rest of the debate is now timetabled for Monday afternoon.

Speaking before the debate at the union's annual conference in Harrogate, NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said the consequences for schools of these "terrible cuts" would be "dramatic", with teaching jobs lost and opportunities narrowed.

"We think it is a very difficult situation for schools in the next year.

"This can't be right. What we are looking for is the parties to say they will put enough money in."

The NUT said it intended to hold urgent talks with whichever party or parties form a government after the general election in May before holding any ballot on industrial action.

Image copyright Judith Burns
Image caption There have been different pledges by political parties to protect school funding

The motion to be debated by the conference on Sunday says that "if no progress is made in talks with the new government on the issue of funding" the union should be prepared to take strike action.

Funding promises

In the general election campaign there have been different pledges to protect school funding.

Labour said it would protect the schools budget in line with inflation, and the Conservatives have promised to protect per pupil funding in cash terms but not accounting for inflation.

Liberal Democrats have pledged to protect school, early years and college funding in real terms.

A Conservative spokesman said: "We have committed to protect the money that schools receive for every individual child they teach. As pupil numbers rise, so will the amount of money that schools receive.

"This means we have committed to spending £590m more on schools over the next five years than Labour plan to."

Labour's shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said his party would "invest and invest again in education" as a way of raising skills and tackling unemployment.

"A Labour government would protect the entirety of the education budget," said Mr Hunt, saying that it would include early years and post-16 spending.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "You can't raise standards; attract, retain and reward great teachers, and cut the attainment gap between richer and poorer pupils if schools are starved of cash.

"Liberal Democrats will protect the full education budget in real terms - including schools, early years and 16-19 education - as we have done with schools in this parliament."

If the strike ballot motion is backed on Monday, it will commit the NUT to working with other unions to "prepare for and ballot for a national campaign of strike and non-strike action" on the "impact of cuts on pay and working conditions".

If no head way is made in early talks with the new government by the time of the autumn statement, a ballot will be held.

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