Northern Ireland news

Politicians failing to invest in education, teachers claim

Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary

TEACHERS have attacked the failure of politicians to invest in education, leading to deep cuts to schools budgets and "savage" pay cuts for teachers.

The NASUWT union is holding its annual national conference in Belfast this weekend.

A motion debated by members spoke of the "severity of the impact of austerity on schools in Northern Ireland".

More schools are finding themselves in the red. Since 2012/13, the number in deficit increased from 197 to 315. In that same period, those with a surplus decreased from 856 to 711.

A survey published ahead of the conference revealed teachers were increasingly paying from their own pockets to provide basic classroom resources and essentials for pupils.

The union is now calling for "all appropriate measures" to be taken, including continuing the union's industrial action to secure better pay and conditions for teachers.

The motion also called on the national executive of the NASUWT to "campaign to expose to parents and the public the adverse impact of continuing cuts and under investment in education budgets on the education service".

NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates said the failure of politicians to invest in education was "leading to real harm in the education service with children, including the most vulnerable, being denied the funding to secure their entitlement to high quality education and teachers denied the resources to deliver it".

"Investment in education should also include investment in the school workforce including their pay, working conditions and access to high quality training," she said.

"Teachers' pay and conditions are inextricably linked to the quality of educational provision. Children and teachers are being failed by the lack of action to address the underfunding and deep concerns of teachers. Where politicians fail to address these needs then the NASUWT will take all appropriate action to protect its members."

The conference also discussed the issue of attacks on classroom staff.

Nearly a quarter of teachers said they were experiencing physical violence from pupils at least once a week or more.

A survey of almost 5,000 teachers found that nearly nine in 10 suffered physical or verbal abuse from pupils over the last 12 months, 86 per cent of teachers had been sworn at, while more than four in 10 had been verbally threatened.

Nearly a third had been hit, punched or kicked, and 39 per cent shoved or barged. Others were spat at, head-butted or had their property damaged.

About half experienced anxiety, depression or stress, and more than eight in 10 (81 per cent) say the abuse from pupils has affected their morale and enthusiasm for their job.

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