NAHT will ballot heads for strike over pay for the first time

Unprecedented move from union with 35,000 members follows poll which showed most backed industrial action

Unprecedented move from union with 35,000 members follows poll which showed most backed industrial action

EU pupils hostile environment

The NAHT headteachers’ union will ballot its members on whether they want to go on strike over pay for the first time, its leader has announced.

Paul Whiteman said his union, which has around 35,000 members mostly in primary schools, will ask its membership in England if they want to take industrial action over a pay deal worth 5 per cent to most teachers and leaders.

The NAHT’s first ballot over pay in its 125-year history will ask members if they want to take action short of strike action, and whether they will take strike action. The NAHT’s membership includes headteachers and other senior and middle leaders.

It is almost unprecedented for the relentlessly reasonable professionals I know our members to be, but we have no choice

Paul Whiteman

It follows a survey of 64 per cent of NAHT members, in which 84 per cent said they wanted to be balloted on action short of a strike “should a suitable agreement on pay and funding not be reached”.

Fifty-five per cent said they wanted to be balloted on a full walkout.

School leaders ‘can’t continue to run their schools’

Addressing the Trades Union Congress today, Whiteman said school leaders across the country “are telling me that they cannot continue to run their schools in the current circumstances”.

“Schools are caught is a vicious spiral. Insufficient pay has contributed to a recruitment and retention crisis.

“And the failure to fund even the insufficient award this year means that heart-breaking cuts to services will have to be made. Less people and fewer services will lead to an erosion of educational quality.”

It follows the announcement last week that both the National Education Union and NASUWT teaching union will formally ballot members in England’s schools.

Whiteman said school leaders’ salaries had lost 24 per cent of their value in real terms since 2010, and warned heads were “feeling demoralised and undervalued”.

“It is almost unprecedented for the relentlessly reasonable professionals I know our members to be, but we have no choice but to move to a formal industrial action ballot to establish what next steps they would like to take.”

A DfE spokesperson said it was “incredibly disappointing that some unions are threatening industrial action in schools”.

“Strike action will damage children’s education and disrupt parents’ lives. Given the impact of the pandemic on children, it’s more important than ever that strike action is avoided.

“We have confirmed the highest pay awards for teachers in a generation – 8.9 percent for new teachers and five percent for experienced teachers and leaders – recognising their dedication and hard work.”

ASCL continues to consult members

ASCL, the country’s other school leadership union, is still consulting with members about whether it will ballot for strike action.

In a recent survey by the union, two-thirds of respondents back a ballot on industrial action short of a strike, and were split on the idea of a full-blown walkout, a response the leader of the usually strike-shy union called “remarkable”.

But only 16 per cent of eligible members responded to the survey, a much lower response rate than the NEU and NAHT had.

General secretary Geoff Barton said the laws around industrial action were “extremely restrictive and the survey response rate was far below the 50 per cent of eligible members that would need to vote in a ballot in order for us to take any form of industrial action”.

“The survey formed just one part of our consultation process with our members, which is ongoing. We are continuing to gauge views in a variety of ways, including speaking to members in person at a series of autumn events around the country.”

“While we consult members further, we remain committed to campaigning for a fully-funded pay increase for teachers and improved education funding more broadly.”

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