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Government announce minimum service levels in schools and colleges

empty classroom

The government have announced that new minimum service levels are set to be introduced in schools and colleges to minimise disruption for pupils during strike action.

The Department for Education said that these proposals will “put in place protections for children, young people and parents to ensure education can continue during any future strike action”.

What is Minimum Service Levels?

“A minimum service level is the level of functioning that workers must guarantee during industrial action.”

Sector Response

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, which represents the majority of school leaders in England, said:

“This is nothing short of an overtly hostile act from the government and an attack on the basic democratic freedoms of school leaders and teachers. At a time when the government should be building bridges with the profession, the timing of this couldn’t be worse. Not only are the government’s proposals for minimum service levels fundamentally undemocratic, they are utterly unworkable in a school setting. There are a range of very basic questions that the government seem to have not even considered, let alone are able to begin to answer.

“The contempt that this government has shown for workers and their representatives is astounding. Unions were told about this news after the press had already been briefed. The government says it wants to enter talks with unions about this but sees attention grabbing headlines as more important than constructive dialogue. When it comes to industrial relations, this government simply doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“At a time when there are major staff shortages in education, schools have been given incorrect budget information and buildings are literally crumbling, it is hugely disappointing that the Secretary of State has decided to pick a fight with those who represent the profession. This is nothing more than an attempt to distract from her department’s own shortcomings.

“We understand the Secretary of State is seeking voluntary agreement to minimum service levels in the first instance, but it is unimaginable that there will any agreement over legislation that involves removing the basic rights of employees. Industrial action is only ever taken as a last resort, when all other options have been explored. By attempting to remove the right to strike instead of engaging with the profession and seeking to address their concerns, the Secretary of State demonstrates that her priorities are in completely the wrong place. Parents and especially young people deserve a Secretary of State who focuses on improving education rather than engaging in political stunts.”

Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:   

“The NEU strongly oppose the introduction of MSLs. We do not acknowledge the validity of MSLs given their impact on the fundamental right to strike, therefore we do not believe this is an appropriate topic for the Government or Department for Education to regulate.  

“The Government, led by a Prime Minister not elected by the public and who has just had two historic by-election losses, has no democratic mandate to implement such an attack on our democratic freedoms.  

“The Government would get further in minimising industrial action and disruption to schools if it engaged with unions on the issues that give rise to ballots. Gillian Keegan will be fully aware that unions including the NEU have comfortably passed voting thresholds designed never to be met, and on repeated occasions. Pay, workload and the recruitment and retention crisis will remain lightning rod issues for our members until the Education Secretary brings forward positive and substantial change.  

“Gillian Keegan should turn her attention to the fact that every day in schools a level of service well below what should be expected is experienced by children and young people. Parents and students should not have to tolerate inadequate SEND provision, crumbling school buildings, a lack of school funding resulting in cuts to subjects offered, larger class sizes and schools being forced to use teachers who are not qualified to teach a given subject. These are the consequences of 13 years of Conservative education policy. Parents expect better, and our children certainly deserve more.” 

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union, said:

“The Education Secretary’s announcement is a blatant attempt to distract from the crisis engulfing our schools and colleges on this Government’s watch.

“At a time of a worsening teacher recruitment and retention crisis, when school buildings are collapsing and riddled with asbestos, and when pupils with special education needs are unable to access the specialist support they need, the Government is continuing to fail our children and young people.

“Today’s announcement comes just hours after the Government suffered some of its worst ever by-election results.

“The message is loud and clear: the public wants more investment in our schools and colleges, not a Government that is hell-bent on attacking the rights of dedicated, committed and hard-working teachers.”

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