From education to employment

Union boss accuses government of ‘selling young people down the river’ as NAHT prepares to ballot school leaders to strike

man and student

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman calls for the government to ‘come back to the table’ to negotiate following the rejection of its pay offer, as the school leaders’ union announces a fresh ballot of its members for strike action.

Speaking at 4pm today at NAHT’s Annual Conference in Telford, Mr Whiteman will say:

“The government must now come back to the table. Simply taking their bat and ball home because our members have said no is not the action of a responsible government. It is a demonstration of contempt for the profession and a lack of concern for children.

“I can’t put it more clearly: If the government cares about the future of young people then they must massively invest in the whole system; teachers, schools, and children. And it needs to happen now.

“No more empty promises, no more smoke and mirrors with numbers, a genuine financial investment. We’ve been on this cliff edge for too long and enough is enough.

“The spectacle of underfunded schools, along with overworked and underpaid staff, working within the context of a punitive inspection regime, is, unsurprisingly, not the solution to our recruitment and retention crisis. It’s damaging to our profession, it’s damaging to the children you teach, and it’s entirely unsustainable.

“A slightly more palatable bottom line in exchange for selling young people down the river and sending a message to the rest of the world that in this country, we just don’t think education is that important.”

Mr Whiteman addresses delegates as they prepare to endorse a decision made by the union’s National Executive Committee last night to formally ballot members – school leaders in England – over pay, funding, workload and wellbeing.

The ballot will open in May and ask one question: whether school leaders are willing to take strike action.

Mr Whiteman will also speak about the recent tragic death of Ruth Perry, who took her own life following an Ofsted inspection. Her sister, Professor Julia Waters, will speak at NAHT’s Conference in Telford tomorrow (Sat).

Mr Whiteman will say: “Ruth was one of us. And she could have been any of us. There are no two ways about it, this has to be a watershed moment for Ofsted. Change has to come and come quickly.

“School leaders have never shied away from accountability and scrutiny. But we do ask for a fair, humane, proportionate inspection system that seeks to support schools, not punish them.

“Our decision to take the first steps towards legal action and issue a pre-action protocol letter was not taken lightly, but it was absolutely necessary. I can tell you that the NAHT lawyers are putting the finishing touches to a legal challenge now.”

Mr Whiteman’s speech is available to watch via livestream:

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