ASCL launches ‘unprecedented’ indicative strike ballot

Headteachers' union asks members if they would be prepared to take industrial action in historic first

Headteachers' union asks members if they would be prepared to take industrial action in historic first

Geoff Barton

School leaders’ union ASCL has launched an “unprecedented” indicative ballot, asking its members if they are prepared to strike over pay and underfunding.

It is a clear sign that leaders remain deeply concerned about school funding despite the announcement yesterday of £2 billion extra for each of the next two years.

The “consultative” ballot is the first in the union’s history, and its results will guide the union’s next steps. It will ask whether members would support a walkout or action short of a strike.

However, a formal ballot would have to be held before legal industrial action could be called.

It comes after NAHT, the country’s other school leadership union, began its own formal ballot of members after finding widespread support for action in its indicative ballot.

But its leader said this week he did not “envisage” asking members to close schools, even if they do vote to strike.

Teachers and support staff in the National Education Union (NEU) and teachers in NASUWT are also currently being balloted. NEU members in sixth form colleges are due to walk out later this month.

ASCL already surveyed members about potential industrial action in the summer, finding that 69 per cent said they were in favour of holding a ballot on action short of a strike. But respondents were split 50-50 on whether to ballot for a full walkout.

However, that survey only had a response rate of 16 per cent, far below the 50 per cent turnout needed in a formal ballot to make strike action legal.

‘We cannot sit back and let this continue’

The union said it had since continued its “extensive consultation” of members, where it “heard the strength of our members’ feelings about the continued underfunding of education” and the consequences for leaders and children.

Underfunding of schools, they said, is “exacerbating the already alarming teacher and leader recruitment and retention crisis” and “compromising the ability of our schools and colleges to provide the education and care to which our children and young people are entitled”.

“As an organisation which speaks on behalf of members and acts on behalf of children and young people, we cannot sit back and let this continue.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said yesterday’s announcement of extra funding was “welcome”.

But it “comes in the context of a decade of real-terms cuts and a teachers’ pay award this year which is both inadequate to improve recruitment and retention and unaffordable because there isn’t enough money for schools to be able to pay it”.

“We will now be asking members to participate in our consultative ballot and guide our next steps.”

Eligible members were sent a voting link this morning, and have until December 16 to cast their vote.

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