Headteachers raise prospect of strike for first time in six years over education cuts

Camilla Turner
Headteachers have threatened to go on strike for the first time in six years over education cuts - PA

Headteachers have threatened to go on strike for the first time in six years over education cuts, as a union leader has warned that school leaders risk being “taken for granted”.

Russell Hobby, the outgoing general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) said that headteachers could be “called upon” to take national industrial action over school funding. 

“If the government believe that you can't be reasoned with, then they won't make concessions to you; if a fight is inevitable, then they will settle for scoring easy points,” he said. 

“But if the government know you'll always agree, or come running just for a seat at the table, then they'll take you for granted. There is a balance to be struck”.

Headteachers warned that the funding crisis could force them to introduce a four-and-a-half day week as a "last resort" Credit: Christopher Pledger

Addressing delegates at the closing session of the NAHT's annual conference in Shropshire, Mr Hobby said he was "proud" that the union has only been on strike once before in its 120 year history. 

He added: "We may be called upon to do so again to defend against massive cuts to education spending that will harm standards of education. 

"The trick as an association is to never be taken for granted in either direction. To keep that balance."

The last time NAHT took industrial action was in 2011, when it joined a number of other major teacher unions to strike over pensions. 

During the union's conference, headteachers warned that the funding crisis could force them to introduce a four-and-a-half day week as a "last resort". 

The last time NAHT took industrial action was in 2011, when it joined a number of other major teacher unions to strike over pensions Credit: Natalie Jezzard / Alamy Stock Photo

School leaders could also consider refusing to submit their budgets, or run a deficit budget, it was suggested. Delegates backed a call for its executive to "explore every available option open to schools" if "irresponsible funding cuts" are not reversed.

Ministers have previously insisted that school funding is at record levels, and this will increase further over the next two years as pupil numbers rise.

Speaking after the debate, Carlisle headteacher Clem Coady, who proposed the amendment said: "We feel, when we put this amendment together, that the four-and-a-half day week must be seen as ultimately, the very last resort because we don't want to cut the offer that we are giving to parents, to children, to families, to our staff.

"But there's got to be some way of forcing and opposing these Government-imposed cuts."

 Education Secretary Justine Greening Credit: Ben Birchall

Earlier this year the National Union of Teachers (NUT) backed industrial action over funding cuts in the parts of the country that are the worst affected. The union's general secretary Kevin Courtney said there was "nothing immoral" about striking. 

A Department for Education spokesman has previously said: "The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at almost £41 billion in 2017-18 – and that is set to rise, as pupil numbers rise over the next two years, to £42 billion by 2019-20.

We recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways and make efficiencies. "

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