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Need to know: What are the unions doing about funding?

Chancellor Philip Hammond has shown a 'lack of understanding' about the school funding crisis in his Budget, unions say

Amid dismay over the Budget, unions are consulting their members about possible industrial action

Chancellor Philip Hammond has shown a 'lack of understanding' about the school funding crisis in his Budget, unions say

Union bosses and school leaders will give evidence on education funding tomorrow to the House of Commons Education Select Committee, as the debate about school finances hots up following the chancellor's alleged "lack of understanding" in the Budget.

What's the current funding situation?

Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged an extra £400 million as a one-off payment to schools to fund “the little extras” in his Budget last week.

The cash averages at £10,000 per primary school and £50,000 per secondary school.

What do the unions say?

The cash reflects “a lack of understanding” about schools’ needs, three unions have said in a joint-statement issued today.

The NEU teaching union, the NAHT headteachers’ union and the Association of School and College Leaders say it “does not remotely address” the 8 per cent real-terms decline in total school spending per pupil over the past eight years.

They say it does not cover funding for the teacher or support staff pay rises that the government has agreed.

And they say funding pressures have resulted in cuts to curriculum options, enrichment activities, individual student support, classroom resources and maintenance budgets.

What’s more, none of the unions’ “six tests” for the Budget were met by the announcements last week, including that cuts should be reversed and new money introduced.

What are the unions currently doing?

The three unions will now each "consult" with their members this month on what action to take.

At the NEU, around 400,000 members will be engaged in a "survey", mostly electronically, with one question specifically asking if they would vote for strike action.

At the ASCL, the union's 19,000 members will simply be asked an open question along the lines of:  “What do you think the ASCL should do next?”

At the NAHT, around 29,000 school leaders will be asked about “next steps”.

What else is being done?

The Education Select Committee inquiry is being held to determine what the Department for Education’s priorities should be for the next Spending Review period and whether schools and colleges would benefit from a 10-year spending plan.

Those giving evidence include Darren Northcott, of the NASUWT union; Kevin Courtney, from the NEU; Jon Richards, from Unison; Stephen Tierney, from the Headteachers’ Roundtable; Valentine Mulholland, from the NAHT; Julia Harnden, from ASCL; and Jules White, headteacher and founder of the WorthLess? Campaign.

Could there be strike action?

Potentially strikes or industrial action could be on the cards if enough union members say that is what they think should happen in the surveys. This could conceivably involve both teachers and headteachers going out on strike together.

However, public sector unions face a formidable hurdle before they are able to take national industrial action. Under the Trade Union Act 2016, to take industrial action these unions must pass a “double threshold”, with 50 per cent of all eligible members returning their ballot papers and 40 per cent of all members voting ‘yes’ to the action.

What other action could there be?

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said he would not be surprised if headteachers, in their responses, called for another heads' march on Downing Street to protest over funding, as happened last month. Although this was supported by the unions, it was organised by the Worthless? Campaign.

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