Politics

Strike talks latest: DfE ‘pessimistic’ about prospect of more money

Union leader calls for political intervention after six-hour crunch talks with department officials

Union leader calls for political intervention after six-hour crunch talks with department officials

Department for Education officials are “pessimistic” about the prospect of more money for schools, with chances of a better pay deal next year also “gloomy”, a union leader has said after talks aimed at averting a teacher strike.

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said the six-hour talks with DfE advisers were “constructive”, but said officials “cannot make any political decisions and it is political decisions that are needed to avert strikes and address the teacher recruitment and retention crisis”.

Teachers in the National Education Union are due to stage six days of strike action in England in February and March after winning a ballot of members.

The NASUWT teaching union and NAHT headteachers’ union are also considering a re-ballot of their members after failing to reach the 50 per cent turnout threshold needed to make action legal.

The dispute is over this year’s pay deal of 5 per cent for most teachers, and the fact schools have had to meet the costs of the rise from their existing budgets.

DfE thinks energy bills will eat up extra cash

Barton, who attended today’s meeting with the other education union leaders, said the DfE was “pessimistic about the prospect of there being any additional money available over and above the extra funding for schools in the autumn statement”.

“Its assessment is that much of that money will, in fact, be taken up by the high cost of energy bills, leaving very little left over for any significant improvement to pay.

Geoff Barton
Geoff Barton

“This would mean that not only is there no improvement to this year’s pay award – which was substantially below the rate of inflation – but the prospects appear gloomy for next year’s pay award too.”

He said the “only solution” would be a political intervention to make more money available.

“The government has to recognise that we are currently caught in a death spiral of a long-term decline in the real value of pay and a consequent teacher recruitment and retention crisis which is putting educational provision and standards at risk.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Following the meeting earlier on this week with the education secretary, officials have held constructive discussions today with union leaders around a broad range of issues.

“They reiterated that action would be highly damaging to children’s education, particularly following the disruption experienced over the past two years.”

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