England school strikes called off as unions vote to accept pay deal

Posted: 1st August 2023

Members accepted 6.5% pay rise, but said it was not enough to correct decade of real-terms pay cuts

England school strikes called off as unions vote to accept pay deal

Members accepted 6.5% pay rise, but said it was not enough to correct decade of real-terms pay cuts

School strikes in England have been called off after teachers and school leaders in four education unions voted to accept the government’s 6.5% pay offer, ending fears of widespread disruption in the autumn term.

Members of the National Education Union (NEU), the NASUWT teachers’ union, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) were considering staging coordinated strike action if there was no progress on pay.

After the government improved its offer, members of all four unions agreed to accept the deal on the table, which will mean an across-the-board 6.5% pay rise from September, with a slightly higher increase for new teachers to bring their starting salary up to £30,000 a year.

Unions said, however, that while the 6.5% uplift was a marked improvement on previous offers, it was not enough to correct a decade of real-terms pay cuts. The NEU’s joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney, said the government “could and should” have gone further, warning: “Next year’s pay round is a whole other argument.”

The NASUWT, meanwhile, remained concerned about excessive workload and long hours, and said its members in schools across the country would be taking action, up to and including industrial action on this issue.

The votes bring to a close a long-running pay dispute, as part of which teachers in the NEU staged eight days of strike action across the country, forcing many state schools to either fully or partially close.

The NEU said 86% of members in England who participated in the ballot had voted to accept the deal and end the current wave of industrial action, with a turnout of 60%, while 77.6% of NASUWT members and 85% of NAHT members voted in favour of the pay award.

It follows the government’s decision to implement a recommendation by the independent School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) for a 6.5% pay increase for teachers in England from September. Union leaders recommended their members should accept the deal.

The NEU said 14% of members (25,541) who took part in an electronic ballot had voted to reject the government’s offer and said they were willing to undertake more extensive strike action, while 86% (154,987) had voted to “accept the offer as progress made by our action” and agreed to end the strikes.

The joint NEU general secretaries, Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, said: “Members have spoken very clearly and in great numbers. The NEU submissions to the STRB went a long way towards changing the government’s position on pay and funding. The strike action taken by our members also shifted the dial, securing the highest pay award for more than 30 years. ”

They warned, however, that their campaign for a better-funded education system would not go away and the government should be in no doubt that they would “hold its feet to the fire” on delivering for teachers and support staff on workload and funding.

“It remains the view of the NEU that school and college funding is far from adequate. It remains a commitment of the NEU to campaign for further increases in teacher pay,” they said.

The Association of School and College Leaders had already suspended a ballot on strike action after members voted in favour of accepting the government’s offer on teacher pay and funding for 2023-24.

Ministers will be hugely relieved at the result. A statutory re-ballot of NEU members in England, which opened in May – preceding the government’s updated offer – to renew the union’s mandate for industrial action came back with a resounding vote in favour, with 95% prepared to take part in more strikes, on a turnout of 53%, comfortably meeting the required legal threshold.

The NAHT also successfully secured a mandate for strike action for the next six months. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “Our ballot results today clearly show the strength of feeling within the education profession that action is urgently needed.

“School leaders are reasonable people, and striking is very much a last resort, but our members have felt compelled to vote for action by a government that simply wasn’t listening.”

The education secretary, Gillian Keegan, said the ballot result was good news for teachers, parents and pupils. “The deal brings an end to the disruption faced by parents and young people, and means we can focus on what matters most – giving our children a world-class education,” she said.

NEU school support staff members in England also voted to accept the pay offer, with 85% in favour and a turnout of 46%.

Source: England school strikes called off as unions vote to accept pay deal | Teaching | The Guardian

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