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Pacifists meet teachers' union members as military spending trumps funding for schools

PPU members and NEU delegates at the NEU conference

Pacifists meet teachers' union members as military spending trumps funding for schools

The Peace Pledge Union has backed teachers who are challenging a rise in military spending while education is desperately underfunded.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), Britain’s leading pacifist network, are running a stand at the conference of the National Education Union (NEU) conference in Harrogate this week. The union recently voted to reject a much-criticised pay offer.

This afternoon, NEU delegates debated a motion calling for cuts to military spending. They are expected to vote on the motion on Thursday.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt recently announced an extra £11bn for “defence” spending, while claiming there is no money to meet the pay requests of teachers, nurses, paramedics and other workers.

The UK already has the fourth highest military expenditure in  the world.

NEU delegate Sally Kincaid wore her PPU badge as she addressed the conference in the debate on military spending.

Let’s be clear about the terminology,” she said. “This isn’t defence spending. This is military spending. If it was defence spending, it would help stop climate change. If it was defence spending, it would have stopped so many people dying of Covid.”

She went on to compare the £11bn recently added to the UK military budget to the £12bn that it is estimated would be required to refurbish all schools in the UK to an acceptable standard.

Ellie Laura Sharp, an NEU delegate from Croydon, urged, “Let’s not call it ‘defence spending’”. She insisted that war has “always been a working class issue” and called for peace talks over Ukraine.

Also backing the motion, Duncan Blackie, an NEU delegate from Sheffield, criticised the presence of the armed forces at school careers fairs. This concern was also raised by a number of delegates visiting the PPU stand.

Despite virtually all supporters of the motion condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they were inaccurately accused of not doing so by two delegates who spoke against the motion.

The PPU is encouraging delegates to back the motion when the vote takes place on Thursday.

PPU members at the conference have already had many and varied conversations with teachers, teaching assistants and other education workers.

The PPU are also promoting their educational resources for both primary and secondary schools and talking with delegates about the rise of everyday militarism in schools.

Since 2012, the number of school-based cadet forces in the UK has increased several times over, thanks to multi-million pound funding from the UK government through the Cadet Expansion Scheme. At the same time, other youth services in England and Wales were cut by £400 million between 2010 and 2019, according to calculations by Unison.

Education has long been central to the work of the PPU, which has been promoting nonviolence for nearly 90 years. As the British section of War Resisters’ International, the PPU works with peace activists around the world, including Russians campaigning against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.


The Peace Pledge Union is a group of people who have pledged to resist war and to tackle the causes of war. We are the British section of War Resisters' International. Join us!