Today's NUT Press Release made some important points in response to George Osborne's 'Autumn Statement', not least the further increase in the state pension age:
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said: “Increasing the pension age is a backward step. The fact that we are living longer does not mean that people are capable of full time or strenuous work. For some jobs, working to 68 and beyond is simply impossible. No one wants 70-year-old teachers in classrooms full of infants or teenagers. Nor, I am sure, do we want 70-year-old nurses, builders, police officers or firefighters, to name but a few professions where this increase in working age is simply not feasible.
“Increasing life expectancy is not universal across the population. These pension proposals are being thought up by people who have a secure economic future and will be able to retire at a reasonable age on their assets. The majority of the population will be left with nothing: no money, no jobs, and no pension. This does not make economic sense as the state will have to make some provision for the millions who will be thrown into financial hardship or ruin as a result of this increase.
“In light of the alarming increase in food banks, universal free school meals for infants are welcome, though it is essential that the Government provides enough additional resources for schools to meet the capital and staffing costs involved. It must be stressed that while the NUT fully supports this move, children over the age of seven also urgently need the same provision and we ask again that Government extends free school meals to all pupils.
“Investment in education is essential for economic prosperity and social cohesion. This Government has not protected school funding. Funding for schools has been frozen in cash terms, meaning significant ‘real terms’ reductions in the value of school funding due to the effects of inflation. The Government now proposes wholesale reform of the school funding system and a national funding formula which will simply move funding losses around the system, unless it is accompanied by an increase in funding which at least restores the cuts imposed so far. FE and college funding has been cut by almost a fifth in real terms.
“There was no proposal in the Chancellor’s statement to help us cope with the unfolding school places crisis which could see 1 in 4 children without a school place by 2016. A Government continues to refuse to allow local authorities to build or open new schools. Instead, it wastes money on free schools, established regardless of need for extra places locally, rather than seeking a rational, planned resolution of the school places crisis.
“With tuition fees trebled, the Education Maintenance Allowance cut, 16-19 funding cut by a fifth and youth unemployment around a million, the Government is letting young people down. The Chancellor does not seem to understand that increases in university places and higher apprenticeships, while welcome, will mean nothing if students cannot afford to continue in education or training.
“Cuts in public sector pay, including for teachers, have contributed to the longest decline in wages since Victorian times. A Government which has already attacked teachers’ pay and pensions is now trying to dismantle our national pay structure. This will harm both recruitment and retention of teachers, just as we face a huge increase in demand through growing pupil numbers.