Teacher strikes

Teacher strikes: Reopen pay negotiations, says academies body

CST's Leora Cruddas calls on DfE to convene fresh talks to avert further industrial action

CST's Leora Cruddas calls on DfE to convene fresh talks to avert further industrial action

Leora Cruddas

The head of an influential body representing academy trusts has urged the government to return to the negotiating table with unions, as teachers gear up for further strikes.

Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, warned the sector “must be wary of a stale mate which could play out over many months, potentially into next academic year”.

Teachers in the National Education Union will walk out again this Thursday and next Tuesday, and are due to strike again after the exams season in the summer.

Cruddas said employers “know that strike action and the decision to ballot is not a decision that teachers and leaders will have taken lightly”.

“The school system is being hit hard by rising inflation, energy costs and the cost-of-living crisis. More children and families are now living in absolute poverty and schools are bearing the strain of much greater need, including mental health needs, in the school population.

“We urge the government to come back to the negotiating table with the education trade unions. We must be wary of a stale mate which could play out over many months, potentially into next academic year.”

Unions prepare for further ballots

It comes after all four unions voted to reject the government’s offer of a £1,000 one-off payment this year and a pay rise of 4.3 per cent for most teachers and leaders from September.

The NEU will seek new six-month strike mandate from July. NASUWT teaching union will shortly re-ballot its members. The NAHT heads’ union will decide whether to ballot again this week.

The moderate ASCL school leaders’ union announced last week that it would take the unprecedented step of holding a formal ballot for strike action.

It raises the prospect of coordinated strike action by teachers and school leaders in the autumn term.

Cruddas said teaching was a “wonderful profession that makes a difference to individual children and benefits wider society in a way few other roles can”.

“We must ensure that teachers at all levels are rewarded with pay and conditions that match comparably skilled roles, and that teaching is a competitive career option for new graduates.”

Ministers have refused fresh talks

The government has so far refused to call further talks, with education secretary Gillian Keegan insisting last week that they would revert to the School Teachers’ Review Body process for pay next year.

Cruddas said she recognised the dispute was “challenging to resolve in this fiscal environment with the need for pay increases to be funded seemingly in conflict with assumptions made about budgets and wider national cost pressures”.

“But we are sure that common ground and a way forward can be found.

“Today we call on government to come back to the negotiating table to find a resolution and return some certainty to classrooms ahead of this crucial period of GCSEs, A Levels, and primary SATs.

“Talking is the only way this dispute will be resolved and ensure that children, who are our first priority, can get back to learning.”

A DfE spokesperson said it had “made a fair and reasonable teacher pay offer to the unions, which recognises teachers’ hard work and commitment”.

“We know schools are facing increased costs like energy and staffing, and are providing an extra £2 billion in each of the next two years to cover those costs. As a result, school funding is set to rise faster than forecast inflation in both 2023-24 and 2024-25.”

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