Teachers back calls for strike action

Ninety-six per cent of teachers polled have voted in favour of a strike at Sussex Downs College after a wave of proposed redundancies was announced.

In March, the college revealed government cuts in further education was forcing it to review its structure, curriculum and services.

This, it said, would mean ‘many roles will change and some posts will have to be lost’.

The result from the National Union of Teachers, which organises mainly at Park College in Eastbourne, is expected to be followed next week by a similar ballot by sister union UCU who have large numbers of members across the rest of the college.

Despite work to reduce the effect of these cuts, 48 redundancies and 37 forced reductions of hours are still planned.

Phil Clarke, secretary for Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden NUT, said, “Our members are prepared to take action not only in defence of jobs but also to protect the educational standards at the college.

“Standards simply cannot be maintained with this level of cuts while making teachers and lecturers teach more hours.”

Strikes could begin this month if the college is not prepared to look at these proposals again. Mr Clarke added, “For teachers striking is always a last resort, but in the interests of both our members and the long-term future of Sussex Downs it is an option we are ready to use. We urge the college management to seriously re-think these cuts.”

Melanie Hunt, principal and chief executive at Sussex Downs, said back in March that the government’s action to tackle the national deficit meant funding for further education was being reduced. She said the college was currently considering the necessary actions that would allow it to live within its budget for the 2012/13 academic year.

Mrs Hunt said, “The college needs to adapt if we are to deal with the real economic pressures the whole country is facing, so that we can live within our means and remain at the heart of education in the area.

“During this process it will be ‘business as usual’ for our students and those intending to join the college during this and the next academic year.

“Difficult decisions will have to be made, however, we are continuing to offer a wide range of education and training opportunities at all levels from entry level to higher education, both in college and in the workplace.

“The college will ensure all change is managed in an open and transparent way and has been liaising with unions as part of the process.”

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