National Union of Teachers commits to defend education against waves of cuts by backing demo, calling industrial action up to and including national strike action. By teacher Andrew Baisley.
National Union of Teachers backs the People's Assembly Against Austerity demo,
The slow squeeze of school budgets over the last five years have been largely hidden from view because they have largely fallen on services such as specialist special needs teachers and local authority advisory service. That has started to change over the last year; there are have been significant cuts to the funding for post-GCSE students resulting in larger class sizes and less subject choice. As a result there have been industrial disputes in 10% of sixth form colleges over the last year. Over the next year the cuts are going to spread to secondary and primary schools.
In Camden, where I work, every secondary school has several hundred thousand pounds less income and some very significant increases in costs - increases in employers' national insurance and pension contributions are going to increase costs by 5% over the next year. At Camden School for Girls, which has a well deserved reputation for its rich and diverse curriculum, small subjects and school trips are now being cut. It is to the credit of the governors that they have publicly attacked the government for the cuts they are being forced to make. At another school where the majority of students are of Bengali heritage, and 85% of students speak English as a second language, the school plans to cut the language support by half and close the Bengali GCSE and A level courses. At other schools class sizes will rise in a range of subjects.
Camden is one of the first areas to be noticeably hit but calculations by Leeds Schools Forum found that English state schools will need to find annual savings of £400m in the coming year rising to £1bn in 2016/17 to balance their budgets.
The NUT committed itself to defending education against this wave of cuts by calling industrial action up to and including national strike action. The union will approach parents' and governors' organisations, other unions and civil society to found a campaign similar to Fight Cuts In Education (FACE). FACE was a grassroots campaign in the 1990's that did much to undermine John Major's government and expose it's neglect of Britain's schools. Blair chose his famous slogan "Education, Education, Education" for a very good reason.
One of the reasons the government has managed popular anger against austerity has been that the NHS and education have been protected from the worst of austerity, so the prospect of a grassroots campaign uniting parents, teachers, students and the wider community could be a very significant development in the wider fight against austerity.
The union resolved to strongly promote the People's Assembly demonstration on 20 June as a first step to building this campaign.