The government is launching court action to challenge National Union of Teachers (NUT) strike action planned at sixth form colleges across the country on Tuesday (March 15).

The hearing will be at London’s Royal Courts of Justice on Monday.

It comes after FE Week reported on February 29 that NUT members had backed the strike through a ballot, with 86 per cent voting in favour of the industrial action from a 44 per cent turnout.

A Department for Education spokesman old FE Week today: “The NUT is seeking to disrupt the education of thousands of students through what we believe to be an unlawful dispute, based on political grounds and not a trade dispute about the terms and conditions of its members.

“We therefore intend to challenge this through the courts.

“We recognise the importance of investing in education which is why, thanks to the difficult decisions we have taken elsewhere, we have been able to protect core 16 to 19 funding.

“At the same time we have ended the unfair difference between post-16 schools and colleges by funding them per student to ensure that all young people leave education with the skills they need to thrive in modern Britain.”

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, expressed “regret” over the legal action.

“We regret that the government has chosen this route rather than seeking to resolve the dispute through negotiations about adequate funding for the sector, which could protect teachers’ conditions of service and students’ conditions of learning,” he said.

“Sixth form colleges provide a vital service that is in danger of all but disappearing if government does not listen and reverse and remedy the severe funding crisis in colleges.

“It seems as though the government is doing anything it can to avoid parents knowing about the funding crisis facing 16-19 education.

“This court case is every bit as much an attack on the right to strike as the trade union bill currently going through Parliament. We hope to defeat this cynical legal challenge on Monday.”

A total of 1,689 NUT members took part in the ballot, with 1,453 voting for the strike action and 235 against.

The question put to members was “In order to persuade the Secretary of State for Education [Nicky Morgan] to increase presently inadequate funding levels which cause detrimental changes to terms and conditions within the sixth form college sector are you prepared to take a day’s strike action?”

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