NUT union members in sixth form colleges across England are set to strike on Tuesday 15 March. They are fighting the impact of Tory funding cuts on teachers’ conditions—and want to stop the assault on education.
There is overwhelming support for the action from NUT members, who backed strikes by 86 percent on a high turnout of 44 percent.
Teachers are furious at Tory education cuts, which are hurting the most vulnerable. NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said, “Funding has already been cut in real terms by 14 percent and further real terms cuts of 8 percent are planned.
“Colleges are dropping courses and increasing class sizes. If this situation is not reversed, many colleges will face closure.”
Over 3,800 teachers across 93 colleges will be involved in the action. The union has called a national protest and rally in London on the day and has said it will fund transport to help strikers attend.
Tom Woodcock is an NUT rep and sixth form college teacher in Cambridge. He told Socialist Worker, “People are well aware that the strike is on. There’s some anticipation about it because we’ll be going to London to join the protest there.
“The union is taking it seriously. NUT members have had emails, phone calls and texts about the dispute.”
For Tom, 15 March can mark the start of a much bigger fightback to defend education. “All schools will be facing major funding cuts,” he said. “We can show it’s possible to fight over cuts. And if we reverse cuts to sixth form funding, that victory would be a beacon to other teachers.”
Their action comes after UCU and Unison union members in further education held a joint strike across England on 24 February. That strike was against a zero percent pay “offer”. But many strikers were also furious at attacks on further education in general—and hope their struggle can help turn the tide against them.
Nicola Hulley, a UCU striker at Barnsley College, told Socialist Worker, “It’s good to finally get action alongside Unison. We need to build on this now and take more action with other public sector workers, such as doctors and the NUT.”
Striker Bradley Sharp added, “It’s about time the TUC called for a general strike.”
The UCU further education committee meets on Friday to decide its next move. They should call for a strike on 15 March alongside the sixth form college teachers.
Some sixth form colleges will have lost a third of their funding in real terms between 2011 and 2016, according to the Sixth Form Colleges Association. The cuts threaten the right of ordinary people to access education.
There’s also a deeper agenda at work—to privatise education. The government’s “area reviews” of 16-19 year old’s education provision only look at further education and sixth form colleges. The aim is to merge and close colleges and sixth forms across England.
Where “demand” for sixth form provision exists, only a school, academy or free school sixth form can be created to meet it.
Every trade unionist should back the strikers and fight the Tory funding cuts. Tom said, “We should push for a programme of national action. We need to get students involved, and we must build a campaign that can inspire other teachers to fight back too.”