Savage attacks on school funding were a dominant theme at the NEU education union’s first annual conference in Liverpool this week.
The NEU said £1.2 billion has been lost from special needs provision in England since 2015 due to funding shortfalls.
Support staff and teachers have been cut, leaving those remaining with impossible workloads.
Delegates passed a motion agreeing to prioritise the campaign to increase school funding.
Tim Hodge from Devon described how one restructure plan at a multi-academy trust in Devon is putting 50 jobs at risk.
“In our union and our sister union the NASUWT there was unanimous support for action,” said Tim. “We need to send out the strongest message to education secretary Damian Hinds and his gang.”
There were horror stories about what the cuts mean in schools.
Jonathan Reddiford from the union’s national executive committee described children having to take pictures of textbook pages and then read them from small screens. “The rich are getting richer,” he said.
“Yet I have to scrabble around so that children have even one textbook between two.
“It shows the contempt this government has for the children we are teaching.”
Emma Parker from Durham said school workers are buying “essentials such as pens, paper and toilet rolls”.
Jenny Jones from Wandsworth, south London, said she had spent £735.88 so far this academic year on materials for the classroom.
Simon Murch from Sheffield argued, “We need to re-evaluate our campaigns. There is a danger of waiting for Labour instead of piling pressure on the Tories.
“We should be launching a major campaign with a programme of regional and local rallies.”
An amendment to the motion instructed the union to “prepare to conduct a further indicative ballot at an appropriate time” if the Tories don’t back down.
One delegate argued against this, saying it would not “succeed”.
An initial indicative ballot on whether teachers would back strikes to win more school funding saw a huge yes vote of over 80 percent. But the turnout was 31.4 percent.
In a live ballot, this would not meet the Tories’ 50 percent turnout threshold in order to hold a legal strike.
Alex Kenny from the national executive told conference, “We can win a ballot.
“We can beat the thresholds—if we go back to members and build this campaign in a serious way.”
Dave Davies from Hackney agreed, “We can be ballot-ready.
“There are job losses happening now. We cannot stand by and allow them to happen without taking some kind of action.”
Unfortunately the motions passed were vague and lacked any sense of urgency to stop the cuts.
The scale of resistance must rise to successfully defend workers’ conditions and education.