Region’s schools face potential strike action as teachers hit out at lack of cash in Chancellor’s Budget 

A teachers strike and protest in Portsmouth city centre in 2013
A teachers strike and protest in Portsmouth city centre in 2013

SCHOOLS across the area could face industrial action after teaching unions have responded with frustration to the recent budget.   

The call for action comes after the Chancellor last week announced a one-off payment of £400 million pounds to help schools with the ‘little extras’ - roughly £10,000 for primary schools and £50,000 for secondaries.

NEU Vice President and Portsmouth teacher Amanda Martin

NEU Vice President and Portsmouth teacher Amanda Martin

As reported in The News, education leaders feel the Government have not listened to their needs and are angered that more money was set aside to repair potholes.

This dissatisfaction has resulted in education unions collaboratively consulting on strike action – the first time this has happened simultaneously.

National Education Union vice president and Portsmouth teacher, Amanda Martin, said: ‘This move is unprecedented and shows the depth of feeling amongst all the unions. The Government’s response to the budget was patronising and showed a lack of listening to both headteachers and the trade unions. The “little extras” the chancellor spoke of are teachers, teaching assistants and resources. The one-off payment works out less than one pound per student.’

The National Education Union, National Association of Head Teachers and Association of School and College Leaders had agreed to a six-point test leading into the budget. The unions have since stated that ‘none of the criteria were met’.

The unions  are ‘dismayed’ by the lack of understanding shown by the Chancellor and that the allocation does not remotely address the eight per cent real terms cuts in schools and over 20 per cent to sixth form funding.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said: ‘So much is contingent upon a properly funded education service – the life chances of young people, the economic and social welfare of the nation, and the goal of greater social mobility. All of this is being put in jeopardy by the Government’s continued failure to provide sufficient funding for schools and colleges.’   

Union leaders feel they have no option but to look at strike action.

‘Members of the NEU, NAHT and the ASCL will be officially questioned regarding industrial action. The ballot will open on November 15 and will close in early January,’ said Ms Martin.

If members vote in favour of strike action then schools will be affected in the spring term.

‘We don’t want to be doing this but we have no choice. The government needs to wake up. Two thousand headteachers recently marched on Parliament and that is just the tip of the iceberg,’ added Ms Martin.

Linked to the issue of school funding is the ongoing dispute over funded pay. Ms Martin said The School Teachers Review Body, an independent organisation charged by the government to review teachers pay, recommended a 3.5 per cent funded pay increase ‘across the board’. She feels the government have simply not adhered to these recommendations.

‘The government have ignored this recommendation. The 3.5 per cent has not been universally applied and the government have failed to provide a funded pay rise. If this rise has to be partly funded from existing education budgets then it will plunge our city’s schools into crisis,’ said Ms Martin.