The Conservative parliamentary candidate for the South West Devon constituency has lambasted the National Union of Teachers for “being politically motivated” and “wanting to cause trouble”.
But Jennifer Stairs, a local secondary school teacher and Devon NUT President said Gary Streeter is in denial and that he “shouldn’t confuse passion for education with politics”.
Ms Stairs said: “The NUT will continue to work hard to ensure that children and education are at the forefront of this election campaign. This isn’t about pay. This isn’t about pensions. This is about Conservative school budget cuts and their impact on education.”
Mr Streeter’s comments came in response to an NUT statement calling on the Government to “invest in education”.
Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT said: “In the general election, we will press all parties to give commitments that if elected, they will invest and not cut education.
“Theresa May’s government has taken decisions which mean 99 per cent of schools are going to lose funding. Teachers and parents will lobby vociferously to put school and sixth form college funding at the heart of this general election. Candidates must recognise what will happen to children’s education if we make the £3bn worth of cuts a year that the National Audit Office has predicted.”
Last month, the Plympton, Plymstock and Ivybridge News reported on the NUT ‘school cuts’ website, which shows a detailed breakdown of individual schools and the impact of the proposed National Funding Formula. The website claims that schools in three towns stand to lose £3.8m from their budgets by 2019.
But Conservative-led Plymouth City Council described the figures as “misleading”.
Plympton Conservative Cllr Terri Beer said: “The figures do not reflect the figures from the Department for Education illustrating the impact of the national funding formula”.
And Mr Streeter drew attention to the county-wide campaign, supported by many Conservative politicians, for a fairer funding formula for Devon schools.
Mr Streeter said: “I will continue to campaign for fairer funding for Devon schools. The government are reviewing the draft funding formula and I am confident the voice of Devon has been heard and will be reflected in the revised formula.
“I’m afraid the NUT is horribly exaggerating the problem which does not help a mature debate on this vital issue. I recognise teachers work hard and do a great job. My daughter is a secondary school teacher locally so I get daily updates!
“The actual numbers on their website are hopelessly wrong. They are politically motivated and want to cause trouble. None of the heads I have spoken to recognise the figures on their website. Not helping.”
But Jennifer Stairs, a secondary schoolteacher and Devon NUT President said the NUT’s objective is to ensure that “education is talked about in this election - it’s not all about Brexit”.
Ms Stairs said: “It’s positive that Gary Streeter is acknowledging that Devon is getting a raw deal, but his facts are wrong. Anyone can check the facts of these figures and how they were calculated. They’ve been independently verified - it’s completely transparent.
“I understand it’s hard reading for Conservatives, but he needs to take into account the situation we’re facing.
“The School Cuts website is a combined effort - we represent the majority of teachers in Devon. All the teachers unions are talking about cuts - including the headteacher’s union.
“This is just ‘deny, deny, deny’ from Gary Streeter, as he’s clearly been instructed to do. We aren’t political, we are teachers. We are not a militant group. Do not confuse our passion for education with militant politics.
“We stick up for children and education. That’s what teachers do.”