The first national ballot on industrial action in school leaders’ union ASCL’s 150-year history will run from June 19 to July 31, it has been confirmed.
It comes as a long-running pay dispute with the government, which has seen three other education unions launch similar ballots, continues.
The vote, which was announced in April, will ask its members in England whether they are prepared to take part in strike action.
If the ballot passes the legal threshold, strikes are expected to take place in autumn and be coordinated with other unions.
In a consultative ballot on the education secretary’s offer of a £1,000 one-off payment this year and 4.3 per cent pay rise for most teachers and leaders next year, 87 per cent of members rejected it.
Geoff Barton, ASCL’s general secretary, said it had “exhausted all other avenues” in its efforts to secure an improved deal from government.
“The government’s neglect of the education system is having a devastating impact on our members, on teachers and other school staff in general, and on the pupils they serve,” he added.
“This cannot go on and, regretfully, we now have no option other than to ballot for industrial action in order to bring the government back to the negotiating table and to secure a meaningful settlement which provides a better deal for education.”
Education secretary says strikes not the ‘right answer’
The National Education Union is the only union to have so far won a strike ballot and its members have staged several walkouts since February in a push for a bigger pay increase.
But the mandate of the union’s current ballot – which saw 90.44 per cent members vote in favour of strikes – ends on July 13.
A fresh ballot of around 300,000 teachers in England began last week and will run until July 28.
Leaders’ union NAHT has also opened a new vote on strike action, which will close on July 31, after its previous vote failed to reach the turnout threshold required.
The NAHT’s dispute with the government has also been widened to cover not just pay and funding, but also recruitment and retention, workload and wellbeing, and inspection, including its impact on headteachers’ mental health.
Teachers’ union NASUWT will re-ballot members on pay, workload and working hours from June 5 to July 10. It also fell short of the turnout threshold last time. A vote for sixth-form college members, launched today, will run until June 12.
The Department for Education has previously said it had “made a pay offer to unions that was fair, reasonable, and recognised teachers’ hard work”.
Ministers have routinely condemned strike action. In a Q+A session with internet forum Mumsnet this week, Gillian Keegan said she had “a lot of sympathy for teachers” and acknowledged that it was “an incredibly difficult job that’s got more difficult”.
But she added: “I’ve never thought strikes were the right answer…all strikes do is affect children”.