Teachers in England are set to strike on Thursday 27 April and Tuesday 2 May, after members of the National Education Union (NEU) overwhelmingly rejected a government pay offer. The results of the NEU ballot found that 98% of members voted to turn down the deal, which the union described as “insulting”.
The government had previously said the offer was “fair and reasonable”, and included a £1,000 one-off payment this year, and a 4.3% rise next year. Starting salaries would also rise to £30,000 from September. However, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan warned that if the deal was rejected, the £1,000 payment for this year would be lost and the decision would be passed back to the pay-review body.
Speaking at the annual conference in Harrogate, Joint General Secretaries Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney said the offer was “unacceptable”, “not fully funded” and did not address the shortage of teachers in schools. After hearing the announcement, delegates at the conference chanted “Come on Gill, pay the bill”.
Ms Bousted confirmed plans to support GCSE and A-level students during the upcoming strike days and said they had been speaking to head teachers to ensure those pupils were in class for exam preparations. The union is now calling on ministers to “reopen negotiations” on pay.
More than 50% of schools closed or restricted attendance on the national strikes days in March, according to government data. Four unions have been involved in intensive talks with the government and are calling for above-inflation pay rises, funded by additional money from the government, rather than coming from schools’ existing budgets.
Three other unions, the NASUWT, Association of School and College Leaders and school leaders’ union NAHT are also balloting members on the offer. The NAHT is also asking if members would take industrial action if the pay offer is rejected.
It is estimated that teacher salaries have fallen by an average of 11% between 2010 and 2022, after taking inflation into account, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The government says it is giving schools an extra £2.3bn over the next two years.
The NEU’s rejection of the government’s pay offer has “united the profession in its outrage” and has prompted calls for ministers to reopen negotiations. With three other unions also balloting members on the offer, it remains to be seen what action will be taken if the deal is turned down. In any case, it is clear that teachers are determined to secure a fair pay rise that is fully funded by additional money from the government.