The NUT union could take strike action within a matter of months if the next government does not address the funding “crisis” facing schools.
Under proposals expected to be put before the union’s annual conference in Harrogate on Sunday, the union’s leadership calls on the political parties to “restore education funding to the necessary levels”.
The priority motion criticises current spending plans by the Conservatives, which it says amount to “real terms cuts of 10 per cent or more in school budgets”. Schools will also face pressure from increases in their pensions and National Insurance contributions, both due to come into effect during 2015-16, it adds.
The union also criticises the £241 million spent on 42 free schools “in areas with no forecast need for extra places”, as well as the fact sixth-form colleges are liable for VAT costs which schools are exempt from.
“Conference believes that this unprecedented attack on the education service strongly demonstrates the necessity of teacher unions working together to defend education,” the motion states.
As well as calling on the union to approach all political parties over the issue, it encourages union members to “take action at school and college level”, and calls for the union leadership to ballot members on a “national campaign of strike and non-strike action”.
The union’s current ballot – over pay, pensions and working conditions – has run since 2011. Under it, the union has held a series of national and regional strikes.
The latest move would signal a change in strategic direction by the union, which is seeking to win fresh backing from its members before potentially embarking on a new industrial campaign.
At a press conference in Harrogate this afternoon, deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said he expected the cuts would lead to job losses in schools around the country.
“With no extra money coming in, you can anticipate serious consequences,” he said. “Who knows what they will be from school to school? You have to think there will be redundancies coming from that, whether they be teachers or support staff.”
General secretary Christine Blower said that the union had no fixed timeframe in mind for taking industrial action, in order to allow discussions with the next government to take place before a decision was made.
When questioned further, she confirmed that “the summer” would be the soonest that action could be taken.
However other motions to be debated by the conference call for more specific action. A separate proposal, also expected to be debated on Sunday, presses for a national strike in September, followed by two more days in October, “should negotiations not achieve significant gains in line with our demands”.
Jobs at risk as schools face ‘financial disaster’ – 20 March 2015
Teachers’ strike: today’s action in pictures – 10 July 2014