Williamson to face funding questions in union summit

EXCLUSIVE: New education secretary has invited the five leaders of the country's biggest teaching unions in for talks ahead of funding announcement

'Outstanding' colleges and FE providers are to lose their Ofsted inspection exemption, education secretary Gavin Williamson has said

Education secretary Gavin Williamson is set to face questions on school funding when he meets the heads of the major teaching unions for "summit talks" tomorrow.

Tes understands that the heads of all the major unions, including the NEU teaching union, the NASUWT teaching union, the Association of School and College Leaders’ and the NAHT headteachers' union, have been invited to attend.

The meeting comes as the government is expected to announce more money for schools and is reported to be planning a new crackdown on bad behaviour in schools.


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The new education secretary is understood to want to engage with the education sector on how to best support teachers, get the best outcomes for pupils and on the issue of vocational education.

But funding is also likely to dominate tomorrow's agenda.

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said his priority would be looking for answers on new funding for schools.

He said: “I will be seeking clarification around the various funding rumours. The devil will be in the detail.”

A leaked document reported yesterday has said that the DfE has plans for a £2.8 billion funding boost for schools and also wants to raise the starting salary of teachers to £30,000.

However, insiders have told Tes that these figures are a "Santa's wishlist" and that the actual figure, due to be announced by chancellor Sajid Javid next week, will be "nowhere near" the sum quoted.

Union leaders have also warned that even the best-case £2.8 billion cash boost for primaries and secondaries is a fraction of what schools actually need to redress years of funding cuts. 

Despite this, unions have welcomed Mr Williamson's invitation to attend talks today.

Mr Barton added: “An invitation for general secretaries to attend a summit came fairly soon after Gavin Williamson became education secretary.

“I think this is unprecedented – certainly since 2010.

“This is a recognition that between us we do represent the teaching profession and school leadership so we are right people to be talking to about the messages they have and it is also important for us to be a critical friend of a government which is committed to trying to raise standards.”

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the NEU, described the invitation as being “very positive”. She said she suspected it would be about school funding and the contents of the leaked document.

“He is holding a meeting for us and I want to give him the courtesy of hearing what he’s saying first of all before I make any comment," she said.

The Department for Education confirmed that unions were invited to a meeting, which was described as a priority for the education secretary after taking up his post.

Mr Williamson is said to be keen to work with unions and plans to meet with them "on both a formal and informal basis."

He was appointed education secretary last month by the new prime minister Boris Johnson and is the fifth person to hold the post at Sanctuary Buildings in just over five years.

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