Funding crisis ‘won't end well', teachers are warned

Members of the NASUWT are already involved in rolling strikes. Picture by Hugh Russell

ONE of the north's largest teaching unions has balloted its members on strike action over pay and school funding.

The Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU), which has about 6,500 members, says the education system is facing a "crisis situation".

Already, teachers in one union - the NASUWT - have had a one-day strike with more action planned next year, while another - the INTO - is to ask its members whether they are willing to also walk-out.

Unions are angry, having rejected a pay offer that would see teachers receive no pay rise for 2015/16, and a 1 per cent cost of living uplift for 2016/17.

Education minister Peter Weir has said he is disappointed by the "futile" action adding that pay negotiations are over.

He said unions rejected a two year pay deal, which was would have seen an increase of 2.61 per cent to teachers' pay.

UTU general secretary Avril Hall Callaghan said there now existed among teachers "a strength of feeling about this that has been seldom seen before".

"I cannot stress enough the crisis situation our system faces," she said.

"It is imperative that we get that message across, not just to the minister, but to parents and the wider community.

"Unlike the employers, parents know and largely appreciate the dedication of their children's teachers but there's a sense that `it'll all be OK in the end'. But this cannot end well and parents need to know.

"Unless something is done to address teachers' plummeting morale over pay and to address the future funding issues to allow schools to carry on providing the education our children deserve, then we must resolve this situation."

Ms Hall Callaghan said parents would appreciate that the ballot on strike action came as a very last resort.

"It's something we as a profession are loathe to do. However, having tried to appeal to the employers via other routes and been treated with contempt we feel we have no other option," she added.

"We want the general public to know that the whole education service is at breaking point - for instance, support for pupils who need specialist services has been severely reduced.

"Children are being taught in bigger classes in many schools, and that is set to rise even further in the next couple of years.

"The minister needs to take teachers seriously - they are slow to anger but he needs to realise that it is teachers that keep education deliverable.

"If they are no longer prepared to go the extra mile, then the whole system will fall down around him."

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