The NUT’s industrial strategy remains in the balance after the union’s annual conference failed to reach a consensus on rival strike proposals.
The union’s executive has proposed a ballot on strike and non-strike action, should the next government fail to address school funding cuts. All of the main political parties’ spending plans could lead to job losses as schools struggle to balance the books, the NUT has warned.
Two amendments debated at the conference in Harrogate moved to strengthen the planned action. One called for a ballot should talks with the next government fail to achieve results by the time of the autumn statement, likely to take place towards the end of the year. This would effectively give the next government no more than eight months to address the union’s concerns, and the proposal was overwhelmingly backed by delegates.
But no decision has yet been reached on alternative plans backed by the NUT’s left-wing factions. These call for a “calendar of escalating national strike action”, as well as public campaigning inspired by the Chicago teacher strikes of 2012. This saw tens of thousands of teachers take to the streets of America’s third largest city and go on strike for seven working days in a row.
The amendment put to the NUT conference demands a doubling of designated planning, preparation and assessment time to 20 per cent of a teacher’s timetable, as well as a £2,000 pay rise for all teachers and maximum class sizes to be introduced.
Barnet teacher Gemma Short said that, without stronger action, funding cuts would lead to job losses, larger class sizes and increased workload for teachers.
She criticised the NUT leadership’s “failure to lead” the membership. “We need to go into a general election saying to Tristram Hunt, ‘This is how you increase funding in schools and you reduce our workload and, if you don’t do that, in your first term we will ballot. We will strike. And that will be embarrassing for you’.”
But executive member Hazel Danson said: “With all the will in the world, some of [the members] are not going to do what we tell them, if we’re asking them too much. And I think the formulation here is asking too much.”
A show of hands on whether to support the amendment was too close to call, so a card count among delegates took place. The results are expected tomorrow.
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