Unite the union is engaging with its members & sister unions in Education to agree a robust response to Tory demand for £110 million in education cuts by end of March.

Unite reasonably believe that the cuts are likely to expose the Education Authority to viable legal challenges over rights of children with special educational needs.

Unite the union has vowed to defend education services in the face of a devastating cut to schools budgets being sought by the Tory party. The union is engaging with its members on a platform of robust action in defense of children, jobs and the education service in Northern Ireland. Earlier this financial year, members of Unite working in education took strike action to advance a pay claim for a cost of living pay increase.

The response comes after it emerged that the Education Authority had written to its sponsoring Department [Education], to confirm it was simply not possible to deliver a £110 million in-year reduction to spending for the 2022-2023 tax year. 

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham pledged her union would stand against the Westminster government’s ‘scorched earth’ approach in imposing brutal cuts on schools and education in Northern Ireland.

“The government’s demand that the Education Authority in Northern Ireland somehow deliver cuts of more than £110 million before the end of March is genuinely a scorched earth policy. They appear intent on making children in Northern Ireland pay the price for their disastrous economic priorities, including the multi-billion costs of the infamous Truss/Kwarteng budget.

“My union will stand squarely behind our members in education in their fight against such punitive policies. It they are implemented it looks like the greatest impact of these cuts will be borne by children with special education needs and disabilities – the government’s approach is profoundly concerning.”

Under consecutive Stormont administrations, education budgets in Northern Ireland have increasingly lagged behind those in the rest of the UK. Based on spending per pupil, funding for education Northern Ireland is now approximately £108 million lower than it is in England, and far behind Wales and Scotland. The recent directives for a balanced book approach by the Conservative Secretary of State means a cliff edge reduction to budgets for schools and other education services. 

Unite Regional Officer, Kieran Ellison, stated that the Tories’ threat to children’s education would be met by a united front of education trade unions in Northern Ireland:

“Northern Ireland has gone from second behind Scotland to the lowest spending per pupil in the UK over the last decade in education. At a time when the Tory Prime Minister is championing the importance of education for future economic growth, it is truly unconscionable that they want to make children here to pay the price for their hard-right austerity policies through such a slash and burn approach to cutting budgets.

“Unite stands robustly against the ideology of cuts and austerity. The Tories will face a united front of trade unions in education – this attack on our young people will not be allowed to pass.”