Teachers will strike if jobs go - union
TEACHERS in Suffolk and Essex may strike to protect jobs as the school funding crisis deepens, union chiefs warned last night .The National Union of Teachers yesterday vowed to resort to nationwide industrial action, including strikes, if NUT members were made redundant as a result of funding difficulties.
TEACHERS in Suffolk and Essex may strike to protect jobs as the school funding crisis deepens, union chiefs warned last night .
The National Union of Teachers yesterday vowed to resort to nationwide industrial action, including strikes, if NUT members were made redundant as a result of funding difficulties.
It also demanded an immediate Government cash injection of £500m for education as it emerged some schools faced deficits of up to £750,000.
Many schools in Suffolk and Essex are already predicting cutbacks on support staff and equipment because of the poor budget settlement for the next year – and fear the crisis will get worse.
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John Dixon, regional secretary of the NUT, based in Newmarket, said: "There are very significant concerns across the eastern region regarding potential redundancies.
"Any increases in workloads will clearly be met with opposition. Strike action would not be out of the question."
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He added: "Suffolk has lost out quite considerably on the amount of funding coming through to schools. A lot of schools are having to look at cutting staff at the very time that the Government is talking about increasing staffing levels to address workload problems."
Speaking to the EADT at the NUT's annual conference in Harrogate yesterday, the union's general secretary Doug McAvoy said life was "particularly tough" for Suffolk schools.
He added: "Suffolk is an authority which has a very low estimate – it is not one of the highest funded authorities.
"Schools simply don't have enough money to cover their rising costs, for National Insurance and teachers' pensions, paying for performance related pay and new support staff."
Mr McAvoy said the union would monitor problems arising as school budgets are set over the summer and would work with local authorities in a bid to prevent redundancies.
He warned: "If we have to take industrial action then that is what we will do but we will try to solve the problems first."
The Government has promised a 6.5% budget increase to help ease the pressure on schools nationally.
However, Martin Goold, Suffolk NUT secretary, claimed they needed more than 9% to maintain the status quo – accounted for by a 5.1% increase in pensions, 2.9% on basic pay and 1% on national insurance.
He added that if Suffolk could secure its 1% share of £500m – the amount being asked for by the NUT to cover the funding gap – it would make a "tremendous" difference to schools.
He added: "We need that money now to avoid compulsory redundancies in the new school year. I do believe that if it came to it, our members in Suffolk would be prepared to take action in support of jobs."
Essex NUT Executive member Jerry Glazier added: "The situation is clear – we have always had a national policy of protecting members from compulsory redundancy. Where there is a wish to strike then we will give that careful consideration and are likely to give our support.
"It is an absolutely absurd situation to be in and one which I am very clear that the fault is at the door of central and not local Government.
"Something is clearly wrong with the funding methodology, the money seems to have gone somewhere else."
He added the future did not look good because the £45 million "buffer" given to Essex County Council for changes to funding in education would be removed during the next three years and that a lot of schools had only just "squeezed by" on this year's budget.
"The Government has got to realise that there is a problem with the funding figure and ask where has the money gone or the situation will be worse next year with a greater risk of redundancies.
"We do not see anything of the funds being in place to remove the bureaucratic burden on teachers. The whole thing is turning into a complete mess and there is an increasing frustration and anger from teachers, heads and governors and also the parents as they see what is happening.
"We will not stand by and see schools deprived of necessary funds," he said.
He pointed to an unnamed primary school in North Essex which had been forced to make one teacher redundant because of funding shortages and said this had forced larger class sizes with mixed age groups.
But a Department for Education and Skills spokesman insisted: "The evidence we are seeing from LEAs suggest that there is still a very significant amount of money in the system that they have yet to allocate to schools.
"Industrial action will only damage and disrupt children's education and undermine the status of teachers."