Politics, Schools

Zahawi: Teachers won’t want to strike after pupils’ Covid ‘damage’

Education secretary faces questions over proposed below-inflation pay rises

Education secretary faces questions over proposed below-inflation pay rises

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The education secretary has said he doesn’t think “any teacher would want to strike” after the damage the Covid-19 pandemic did to pupils.

Both the National Education Union and NASUWT teaching union have said they will ballot members for strike action if teachers do not receive a more generous pay deal than what has so far been put forward by the government.

Nadhim Zahawi has proposed an 8.9 per cent rise in starting salaries next year, but just a 3 per cent increase for most teachers and leaders.

There have been reports that Zahawi is pushing for an improved 5 per cent rise for most teachers, but this would still fall far below inflation, which currently stands at 9.1 per cent.

But any further rise without extra funding would also leave schools having to pay for the difference from their own budgets.

The education secretary faced questions about the pay deal today in the House of Commons, but said MPs would have to wait for the final report of the school teachers’ review body, which makes recommendations on teacher pay.

However, he also questioned threats of teacher strikes given the impact of the pandemic on pupils.

“I don’t think any teacher would want to strike after the damage that Covid did to students being out of school,” he told MPs.

But a recent poll by Teacher Tapp found 38 per cent of school staff surveyed said they would support strike action if offered a pay deal of 3 per cent or below, with just 20 per cent saying they would oppose it. Another 38 per cent said they were unsure, however.

Zahawi has been highly critical of threats to strike, saying last month that industrial action by teachers would be “unforgivable”.

Supply agencies question strike cover plan

It was also reported recently that the government plans to try to change the law to allow temporary workers including supply teachers to plug staffing gaps in the event of strikes.

But Schools Week revealed last week how several supply agencies had poured cold water on the plan, warning they lacked the numbers and that many staff would refuse to cross picket lines.

Labour MP Kate Osamor said teachers deserved an inflation-related pay rise.

“The secretary of state has suggested that teachers going on strike would be unforgivable, but what is unforgivable is the fact that teachers’ pay has fallen by a fifth in real-terms over the past 12 years of Conservative rule.

“This at the same time as them being crushed under an unsustainable workload, hurting mental health and wellbeing.”

But it is not just teachers who found themselves in the education secretary’s sights today, as he railed about the impact of recent strikes on the transport network.

He claimed a group of resettled Afghan refugees, who are in year 10 at John Smeaton academy in Leeds had on June 7 woken up early to “walk the 4.2 miles to school just so that they could sit their exams”.

“These children are exemplary students Mr Speaker, they are very welcome in Britain. Their example should inspire us all and shame those whose striking has jeopardised young people’s futures.”

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