A ballot of school headteachers and senior leaders in the NAHT union has failed to meet the legal turnout threshold for strike action.
Overall 64 per cent of those who voted in the ballot in England supported strikes, while 87 per cent voted in favour of action short of a strike.
However, turnout was just 42 per cent, below the 50 per cent threshold needed to make industrial action legal.
It was the first time NAHT members in England had been balloted for national industrial action over pay in the union’s 125-year history.
The union said it was considering re-running the ballot due to postal disruption, and that it remained in dispute with the government over its pay deal, worth just 5 per cent to most teachers and leaders this year.
The union said “significant postal delays” meant nearly three-quarters of those requesting duplicate ballots did not receive them in time to vote. The union pointed out that turnout in its electronic indicative ballot was 64 per cent.
Paul Whiteman, the NAHT’s general secretary, said it was “incredibly frustrating that anti-trade union and anti-democratic legislation compelled us to conduct the ballot by post during a period in which the management of the Royal Mail refused to take action to ameliorate the disruption to the postal service”.
Union considers re-running ballot
He said there had been “a very strong appetite for action from those we have heard from, with a higher percentage voting ‘yes’ to both strike and action short of strike than in our consultative online ballot”.
“It is clear our members’ resolve to stand up for themselves and for education has only hardened.”
He said if members felt they had not had the chance to be heard during the ballot, “it may be that we have no option but to start again”.
“I warn the government that they are on notice. 10,000 thousand school leaders have made it clear that they are at breaking point with the way things are. That is something that must be listened to. We remain formally in dispute with the government.”
It comes after teaching union NASUWT announced it plans to re-ballot its members, after its ballot also fell short of the turnout.
The National Education Union, however, did meet the turnout threshold for industrial action by teachers in England, and has announced seven days of strike action in February and March.
Education secretary Gillian Keegan said she welcomed the outcome from the NAHT ballot.
“Talks with union leaders are ongoing and any strike action from one union will have a damaging impact on pupils’ education and wellbeing, particularly following the disruption experienced over the past two years.
“We have already met the unions’ request for an additional £2 billion in school funding, which will take real terms spending on schools to its highest level in history.”