Nicky Morgan loses court bid to stop teachers' strike

14th March 2016 at 17:25
Industrial action will go ahead tomorrow in sixth-form colleges

A strike by teachers at sixth-form colleges in England can go ahead tomorrow (15 March), the High Court has ruled.

The industrial action planned by the NUT teaching union will continue after Mr Justice Kerr refused to grant the education secretary Nicky Morgan an urgent declaration that it was unlawful.

In last month's ballot, 86 per cent of members at the 92 colleges in England voted in favour of action on a 44 per cent turnout.

Clive Sheldon QC, for the secretary of state, argued that the action was unlawful because it was not in furtherance of a trade dispute as it was not predominantly about terms and conditions of employment.

There was no current dispute between the NUT and the colleges, the teachers' employers, as a pay claim was settled at the end of February. Instead it was about funding cuts and part of the union's political campaign "Save Our Colleges", said the government's counsel.

After a day of argument, the judge said that the balance came down against granting the declaration.

'Victory for democracy'

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, said: “The High Court’s decision is a victory for democracy and common sense.

"It is abundantly clear that government cuts to sixth-form college funding are having a direct impact on our members’ terms and conditions and as such we are entitled to take strike action.

“Sixth-form colleges provide a vital service to over 150,000 young people, many from disadvantaged backgrounds. Yet government funding cuts mean many of those services will soon be financially unviable. The cuts will result in a further loss of courses, job losses and increased class sizes."

He added: “It is regrettable that the government has not attempted to resolve the dispute. No one wants to take strike action but this is a serious issue that is getting increasingly worse.

"The NUT has been left with no option but to raise awareness of the problem through industrial action. Nicky Morgan’s challenge to the legitimacy of our strike action has just made that job easier.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The NUT is seeking to disrupt the education of thousands of students and damage the reputation of the profession. We are disappointed with the court’s decision and are considering our options.

“We recognise the importance of investing in education which is why, thanks to the difficult decisions we have taken elsewhere, we have been able to protect core 16 to 19 funding. At the same time we have ended the unfair difference between post-16 schools and colleges by funding them per student to ensure that all young people leave education with the skills they need to thrive in modern Britain.”

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