The NUT has called strike action today. We know that this is an inconvenience for many parents and for that we whole heartedly apologise. Our strike action is a protest about the negative impact underfunding of our schools is having on education, children and teachers.
Government is not listening. The education of the next generation is of such importance that we cannot stand back and do nothing about it. We have to act to defend education.
So many teachers are at their wits end with an education system that is underfunded and a government which expects more and more from teachers and children. A lack of proper funding affects not only teachers' terms and conditions but also our children's education. I was a primary school head teacher for 16 years having left my school in December last year. In all that time I have never experienced such disillusionment and turmoil in education. So many teachers leaving in their first three years of qualifying and others wondering what has happened to the profession they love.
School budget cuts are having a detrimental effect on teaching in the classroom. Trying to juggle the balance sheets is resulting in class size increases, cuts to resources and subjects, particularly the arts and a reduction in teaching staff or posts left unfilled. Schools will be relying on fundraising to plug the gaps. No head teacher should be faced with these choices and no parent should expect their children to be bearing the brunt of Governments decision to underfund schools. It is hard to believe that we are living in the 5th richest country in the world and yet our children's education is subject to such a lack of proper funding. The government has the wrong priorities. Spending vast sums of money on structural reform through the academies programme; money spent on more and more tests for our children and constant changes of policy.
5 July is the day that the DfE will inform schools of their pupils' results. There is no demand on schools to tell pupils their results on the same day, and ministers - who have often stressed in the words of Nick Gibb that 'the tests have no consequences for the children involved' - have no grounds for complaint if they don't. Many schools will distribute the results as part of pupils' annual reports, later in the term. This will not be impeded by the action on 5 July.
The EU referendum has thrown the country into a period of uncertainty. With the election of a Conservative Party leader underway we must ensure that education is one of the issues that is debated and at the forefront of the candidates' campaigns. Now, more than ever in these uncertain times, we need a properly funded and staffed education system. We owe that to our children.
In common with the Junior Doctors we recognise the impact of underfunding. It is time the Government started meaningful dialogue with unions and committed to proper level of funding in both health and education. It is essential at a time of political upheaval that education and the health service are at the forefront of public discussion and party leadership campaigns.
It is quite simply a disgrace that schools up and down the country are being so underfunded and our teachers so poorly treated. Children and young people need to be given the best possible start in life. For that we need schools that are well funded and our classrooms fully staffed with qualified teachers. We urge Nicky Morgan to address the real and pressing issues that are forcing our schools to make decisions that are bad for education, children and teachers.
The education of the next generation is so important that we cannot stand back and do nothing about it. We are standing up for education and calling on our government to fund it appropriately.
Anne Swift is the president of the National Union of Teachers
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