‘Education has been neglected’: City and Islington College NEU members to strike over funding and working conditions

A file image of Owen Street by City and Islington College, which has been taped off by police. Pictu

A file image of Owen Street by City and Islington College, which has been taped off by police. Picture: Google StreetView - Credit: Archant

National Education members working at a school in Angel will strike on Thursday to demand more funding for sixth form colleges.

The NEU is in dispute with the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, and wants improved pay, conditions and employment through better funding for 16-19 education.

NEU workers at the Goswell Road institution will walkout at the same time as staff at 33 other sixth form colleges nationwide.

City and Islington's NEU rep Pippa Dowswell said: "Our members are seeking higher and sustained funding which will improve the pay, working conditions and security of employment of NEU members and secure the future of the sector. Education has been neglected under the Conservatives, and in sixth form colleges in particular. No one strikes willingly, but our members are angry and determined to secure a properly funded future for both staff and students."

The NEU is calling for chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak to plug the £700million shortfall in funding for post-16 education in his March 11 budget.

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But education minister Michelle Donelan said: "It is very disappointing that the NEU has decided to take further strike action in sixth form colleges and 16-19 academies.

"The decision to strike is especially disappointing given that we have committed to increasing 16-19 funding in the 2020/21 academic year by £400 million - the biggest injection of new money in a single year since 2010. This is in addition to funding the additional costs of pension schemes in 2020/21.

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"We are committed to an ongoing dialogue with the National Education Union and I have already met with the joint general secretaries to discuss how we can avoid disruptive strike action."

In an NEU ballot that closed on September 16, 25 colleges passed the 50 per cent turnout threshold allowing strike action under trade union law. Overall, 84pc of members voted in favour of action on a 43pc turnout.

In addition, a re-ballot of 16 colleges - which closed on 4 November - saw 9 more colleges pass the threshold.

Kurt Hintz, Principal of City and Islington College said: "No-one wants to go on strike, but sixth form colleges have had real-terms reductions in their funding since 2013, meaning that funding levels per-student are now 13.6% (£572) lower than they should be.

"That's why we are calling for the government to increase funding for all sixth form colleges and secure the future sustainability of education for all 16-19 year olds, and that's why college staff who are members of the NEU union have taken the decision to strike on Thursday. The dispute is not with the college but with national funding levels. This wider funding issue is also the subject of a Westminster Hall debate in the House of Commons today.

We're doing all we can to minimise the impact on students on Thursday. All students are set home learning and for those whose domestic arrangements make it hard for them study in peace at home, our library will be open all day. We are also making additional study sessions available."

There will be a rally at Parliament Square on Thursday, followed by a march to the Department for Education.

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