The UK’s Largest Teachers Union Responds To Theresa May’s Education Plan

(REUTERS/Toby Melville)

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The UK’s largest teachers union voted in support of a one-day strike option as a growing rift between educators and the government threatens to interrupt the education of school children across the country.

Delegates at the annual conference for the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which represents almost 400,000 teachers and teachers-in-training, voted to support a strike, which would have to take place before an August 31 deadline.

“There are places where the cuts are so bad and the degree of concern so big that strike action is a real possibility. We will consult with colleagues in the regions about the readiness of members to do this,” NUT General Secretary Kevin Courtney said.

The vote comes as British Prime Minister Theresa May implements a policy that includes the expansion of grammar schools, which are schools that select students based on a test taken at age 11. Students who pass the test, can attend the local grammar school, while all of the students who do not pass the test attend the local secondary school.

There are only about 163 grammar schools in England, according to the BBC, while there are 3,000 state secondary schools. The conservative prime minister has argued that expanding grammar schools will help working families and children from impoverished backgrounds.

Selective education, as grammar schools have come to be known, is a divisive topic in British politics. May and conservative members of parliament want to remove a moratorium on new grammar schools,  and open 140 new schools that have the ability to choose students based on test results. Labour party members say that selective education actually hurts the poor and under-educated

Teachers groups across the UK responded in full force to reports suggesting that the government planned to cut school funding per pupil for the first time since the mid-1990s. A report from the Institute for Fiscal studies determined that education spending would drop 8 percent by the 2019-2020 school year.

Britain’s Department of Education denied any existence of a funding problem.

“School funding is now at its highest level on record at more than £40bn in 2016-17 and the IFS has shown that by 2020 per pupil spending in schools is set to be at least 70 per cent higher in real terms than it was in 1990,” a spokesperson told The Independent.

The NUT is merging with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in September, which will create a super-union composed of almost 600,000 teachers and support staff at schools across the United Kingdom.

Courtney said it would consult with members before moving ahead with a national or regional strike.

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