Schools across the northwest of England were shut last Thursday after two of Britain's biggest teachers' unions called a one-day strike to protest cuts in education spending in the budget unveiled last week by George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer. About 3,000 schools in Liverpool, Manchester and Chester were affected.
The National Union of Teachers said that tens of thousands of educators were involved in the strike.
"This strike action should not have been necessary and could have been avoided if the secretary of state was prepared to listen to the voice of teachers who are raising deep concerns, not only on behalf of the profession, but on behalf of our children and young people," said Chris Keates, the union's general secretary.
Extending his austerity program into an unexpected fifth year, Mr. Osborne announced that spending on education would decline by £500 million, or about $760 million. The budget for the National Scholarship Program, which provides support for students from poorer backgrounds, was cut to £50 million from £150 million; the program's emphasis was also switched from undergraduates to graduate students. Teachers and other public sector workers will lose automatic pay increases based on seniority.
Spending on education is supposed to be "ring-fenced," or immune from significant reductions, and the total cuts announced by Mr. Osborne amount to only about 1 percent of the £53.2 billion education budget. But critics noted that while funding had been cut for nursery schools and further education colleges, which are the British version of U.S. community colleges, he had found enough money to expand the government's free schools program, which transfers the supervision of schools from the local authorities to the education minister.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.