Teacher strikes to go ahead as government offer ‘nothing substantial’

National Education Union refuses to call off next week’s teacher strikes unless the government come forward with a 'serious proposal'

Teachers strike

The National Education Union (NEU) has said the teachers’ strike will remain in place next week unless the government can come forward with a serious proposal ahead of Saturday.

It comes after the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan sent a letter to the NEU that said she had agreed with the Prime Minister and Chancellor to enter substantive, formal talks with the union to resolve the dispute.

However, the union said the letter contained no suggestion that the government were willing to talk about a pay rise for this year, which is a crucial aspect in the current dispute.

The NEU added that ‘nothing substantial’ was offered, however expressed today that they would be willing to pause the strike action if the government came forward with a serious proposal.

Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union said: “We are prepared, should the negotiations make real progress, to pause next week’s strikes.

“But the government has to show good faith. We ask ministers to drop its preconditions and to begin serious negotiations.”

They added: “We ask ministers to engage in earnest so that we can achieve what is surely a common objective – uninterrupted schooling for the nation’s children and young people.” 

The NEU said they have been clear with the government that the dispute is about a pay rise and the funding of pay for this current year.

Kevin Courtney, NEU Joint General Secretary, said the NEU was pleased the Secretary of State had agreed to move into substantive talks with the union, but that nothing in the letter suggested they should call off the strikes.

Courtney said: “Our dispute is about seeking pay increases for teachers which at least match price increases, and for any pay rises to be fully funded in school budgets.

“Hopefully, this new commitment to talks to ‘end the dispute’ signals a change in the willingness of the Department of Education (DfE) to countenance change.

“However, the letter from the DfE offering talks still contains no suggestion that they are willing to talk about pay rises this year and are willing to fund them.”

The NEU has given the Education Secretary a deadline this Saturday for the DfE to make clear they will talk about pay rises for this school year.

Teachers pay has been cut by £6,600 since 2010, whilst chronic budget cuts have meant teachers going out-of-pocket to buy student resources.

Since 2010, more experienced teachers saw a 13% real-terms drop in pay.

Why did Wales reject their pay offer?

The NEU rejected a pay offer made by Wales’ Minister for Education last week.

An additional 1.5% was offered to teachers pay, plus an additional 1.5% lump-sum.

The NEU said this offer was ‘simply not good enough’ and failed to address the cost-of-living crisis or inflation, which current sits at just above 10%.

NEU Wales Secretary, David Ellen, said the offer, although seeking to address workload and reopening negotiations for 2023/24, fell short of members ‘expectations and needs’.

However, the union thanked the Welsh ministers for preparing to negotiate, noting it was ‘in stark contrast to the Westminster Government’.

Upcoming teacher strikes

Tuesday, 28 February (Northern, North West, and Yorkshire and Humber regions)

Wednesday, 1 March (East Midlands, Western, Eastern regions)

Thursday, 2 March (London, South East, South West regions)

Wednesday, 15 March (England and Wales)

Thursday, 16 March (England and Wales)

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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