Sixth form industrial ballot and strike

The strike ballot for sixth form colleges closed on 16 September and five out of six members voted to take action – 84 per cent of members voted Yes to action and Yes to saving the sixth form sector. Nine colleges are joining the strike action for the first time, having recently been re-balloted.

National Education Union members working in 34 Sixth Form Colleges took a day of strike action on Wednesday 20 November to demand more funding for their students and their colleges.

There is currently an overall £700 million shortfall in funding for Post 16 Education.

Teaching staff numbers and support staff posts have fallen significantly due to the real-terms cuts, while at the same time student numbers have risen. This is putting the future of Sixth Form Colleges under serious threat. If the crisis continues to go unaddressed, it is students’ education that will continue to suffer.

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  • Industrial Action FAQs

    My college is not one of the 16 going through a balloting process. Why?

    The threshold for participation is 50% of members and while the majority who voted have shown overwhelming support for the action, in a number of colleges the proportion of members was not above 50%. Those who were very close have been chosen to be re-balloted.

    Are teacher trainees eligible to strike?

    Only teacher trainees that are employed by the college are eligible to strike. Even though trainees may have membership with NEU via NQT and teacher trainee offer they may be self funding or employed elsewhere and doing their work placement making them ineligible to take action.

    I work in a Sixth Form College within an FE college should NEU FE members cross the picket line? 

    Only those NEU members balloted to take action can take industrial action. Members not balloted in a distinct area of the college and who are under different terms and conditions are not eligible to join the action.

    Can members who joined after the ballot started (or finished) go on strike?

    Yes, as long as this is not a significant number (which would suggest an extenuating factor) or an additional ‘group’ of members.

    What about if students are taking exams: will they need to cross the picket line?

    Union advice in these circumstances is that the strike should go ahead but there should not be a picket line. Our action is to support teachers and learner, not to cause any undue anxiety in what could be a crucial time for learners.

    Is there dispensation to support students on strike days?

    Specific dispensation to cross picket lines and complete essential work eg support for students during this time can be clarified and advice for any dispensation for support staff should be directed to the relevant regional secretary who will ensure that the correct procedures are followed.

    Explain how the dates were chosen for the industrial action?

    The dates were chosen by the NEU Executive. They were to signal an ongoing dispute with the SoS on the issue of pay and funding for the SFC sector. The dates set are on different days to offer less disruption to timetabled classes.

      Why the union feels it’s important to take the industrial action at this time? 

    The timing of the action is crucial as NEU has seen how the Sixth Form College sector is suffering institutional fragmentation due to funding pressures (Academinsation; takeover and mergers by and with FE colleges; new college groupings being formed). This has, in turn, put pressure on national contracts, bargaining, and pay. This happened in last year's pay deal with the differentiation of SFC Academies and Sixth Form Colleges. If this fragmentation is not addressed to ensure that funding levels meet the needs of pay parity with teachers in maintained schools and that other action is taken on pay, conditions and employment, then national terms and conditions will begin to weaken and potentially dissolve as has happened in FE.

    When will industrial action end!?

    When the Secretary of State agrees to fund the pay settlement for 2019/20 and provides for a sustainable funding environment for Sixth Form Colleges.

  • List of colleges who took strike action

    Ashton Sixth Form College

    Bilborough College

    Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College

    Cheadle and Marple Sixth Form College

    City & Islington Sixth Form College

    Coulsdon Sixth Form College

    Esher College

    Gateway Sixth Form College

    Havering Sixth Form College

    Hereford Sixth Form College

    Hills Road Sixth Form College

    King Edward VI College – Nuneaton

    King Edward VI College Stourbridge

    Long Road Sixth Form College

    Longley Park Sixth Form College

    Newham Sixth Form College

    Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College

    Peter Symonds College

    Priestley College

    Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College

    Reigate College

    Richard Huish College

    Shrewsbury Colleges Group

    Sir George Monoux College

    St Brendan's Sixth Form College

    St Francis Xavier Sixth Form College

    St John Rigby RC Sixth Form College

    The Blackpool Sixth Form College

    The Brooke House Sixth Form College

    The Sixth Form College Solihull

    Thomas Rotherham College

    Varndean College

    WQE and Regent College Group

    Xaverian College

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Hi @gavinwilliamson I support our sixth form college lecturers staff striking to increase their pay, reduce class sizes and achieve a better work-life balance save their sector #SaveOurColleges

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17 October strike video - watch and share

25 colleges that reached the 50% turnout threshold took strike action on 17 October in relation to pay, working conditions  and funding cuts in Sixth Form Colleges since 2010. #SaveOurColleges

What is it about?

The NEU is in dispute with the Secretary of State in relation to the pay, working conditions and security of employment of NEU members in the sector and in particular the detrimental effects on these of the cuts in college funding since 2010.

The NEU has asked the Secretary of State to address this by increasing the funding rate per student as proposed by the Raise the Rate campaign to which the NEU is a signatory, and by paying the Teachers’ Pay Grant to all sixth form colleges in order to support an adequate pay increase. He has declined to take these steps.

The recent announcement of £400 million extra funding for 16-19 education was welcome but it goes nowhere near closing the £1.1 billion gap that has opened up in 16-19 education funding since 2010. The Education Select Committee has said that across 16–19 education, funding per student fell by a full 16% in real terms between 2010–11 and 2018–19. Twice as much as the 8% school funding fall over a similar period.

The impact on pay

Teachers and support staff in sixth form colleges have suffered a substantial real terms cut in the value of their pay since 2010.  Their pay has also fallen back compared to other workers.  Now the parity for sixth form college teachers with schools has been lost as well.

The Secretary of State’s decision to provide the Teachers Pay Grant only to those colleges with academy status means that it will be very difficult for the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association and NEU to reach a pay agreement for September 2019 that will restore pay parity with schools. This will exacerbate the real terms decline in pay since 2010 for both teachers and support staff in sixth form colleges.

The impact on working conditions - affecting staff, students and the sector

Sixth form colleges suffered a 22% reduction in real terms funding between 2010/11 and 2016/17 - deeper cuts than any other group of education institutions.

During this period, there was a 15% reduction in teaching staff numbers despite a 6% increase in the number of students.

The consequences of the funding cuts are that:

  • SFCs are teaching students in larger classes, increasing teachers’ workload significantly,
  • there have been significant cuts in support staff posts,
  • responsibility payments have been removed,
  • teachers’ contact time has been increased, and
  • staff training budgets have been reduced.