Union accused of ducking funding fight

8th August 2003 at 01:00
NAHT leader slates rival association for failing to back efforts to ensure ministers keep workload promises, writes Jon Slater

A HEADS' leader has accused a rival union of risking teachers' jobs by refusing to back his tough line on school funding.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, has said disunity among teacher unions could result in schools losing hundreds of millions of pounds needed to implement the workload agreement.

In a letter to The TES he criticises the rival Secondary Heads Association for failing to say what action it will take if the cash promised does not materialise.

The NAHT has threatened to pull out of the deal if ministers fail to keep funding promises. It feels isolated in talks and believes other unions are too ready to compromise. In his letter, Mr Hart writes: "Perhaps the SHA would like to indicate what action it proposes to take if the actual funding outcome this autumn falls short.

"Does it not realise that a significant number of schools have had to set deficit budgets or have only balanced their budgets with extreme difficulty? This has often meant job losses."

The Government will present its latest workload funding proposals to the other signatories at a meeting early next month.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke is expected to resist union calls for extra money to help schools who have been hit hard by this year's funding crisis to implement the agreement.

Mr Hart said that he regretted that the National Union of Teachers, which has taken a similarly hard line on funding, has excluded itself from discussions by refusing to sign the workload deal.

The NUT has been pressing hard for a greater role in discussions about the deal's implementation. It has tabled a motion at this year's Trades Union Congress calling on school unions to work together to establish how much cash is needed to implement the workload deal.

But TUC signatories to the deal (the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, Association of Teachers and Lecturers and support staff unions) have so far rejected calls for a meeting before next month with ministers to discuss funding. Angered by the aggressive tactics used by the NUT to oppose the deal, they have decided to wait and see what happens in September.

Martin Ward, SHA deputy general secretary, said the union would continue to push for more funding but said that, whatever it or the NAHT did, heads would still be legally bound to implement changes to teachers' contracts.

But he acknowledged there was clearly not enough cash on the table to implement the deal at present.

The row between the unions comes as a survey by the Press Association found that around 1,300 jobs have been lost so far as a result of this year's funding crisis.

The poll of 36 education authorities found most felt Mr Clarke has not done enough to prevent funding problems recurring next year. A few said larger classes and four-day weeks may be introduced.

Squabbles force NAHT resignation, 9; Letters, 14

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