Today (15 February), there have been talks between education unions and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan over teacher recruitment and retention, pay erosion and industrial action.
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, said;
“While there was a more positive tone at today’s talks and more meetings will be set up as a result the outcome was still disappointing. While there has at least been an offer on pay in Wales and talk of a new offer in Scotland, Gillian Keegan has not been able to make any new offer on teacher pay this year or even to talk about the numbers on teacher pay next year.
‘Nothing in this meeting gave us anything we could work with to justify suspending the next day of regional strikes on the 28 February. Gillian Keegan and the Government need to be aware that teachers will not back down on this. Decades of an education system being run into the ground and below inflation pay increases over the past decade have left the profession utterly demoralised.
‘This has resulted in a third of teachers leaving within the first 5 years of qualifying and the secondary school teachers training target missed this year by 41%. The figures speak for themselves. We know that parents understand the challenges facing their child’s school, with a recent Parentkind poll showing, 63 per cent believed that teachers should receive a pay settlement in line with current inflation figures.
‘We hope that the prospect of three days of strike action in regions of England from February 28 to March 2 will concentrate minds in Whitehall”.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
“While the tone of today’s talks signalled a greater sense of urgency on the part of the government, we have to report that once again there is no new offer to improve the inadequate pay settlement which has sparked the ongoing dispute. There has been discussion about addressing systemic issues which drive unsustainable workload pressures on education staff but nothing concrete in this direction either. Unless pay and conditions are improved the severe teacher shortages being experienced by many schools will worsen and so will the impact on the education of young people.
“We cannot go on like this. Unless there is tangible progress towards an improved offer the prospect of further strike action by NEU members is inevitable, and will lead to members of our union, and other education unions, also concluding that industrial action is the only option left. Our consultative ballot in the autumn was in favour of moving to a formal ballot on industrial action but we have held off from that step and tried to resolve the dispute through negotiation. However, there is a limit to how many times we can come out of a meeting with the Education Secretary without progress being made.
“Both Wales and Scotland are making offers in an effort to improve pay and avert further strikes. Those offers might not be perfect, and won’t satisfy everyone. But they are a great deal better than anything managed by the government in Westminster, which has put nothing on the table so far despite having far more resources at its disposal. We expect further talks to take place shortly and we hope that there will be a breakthrough.”
Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:
“While there was a positive and constructive tone to the discussions and engagement from the Minister today, we are still some way from hearing what specific proposals the Government is willing to put on the table for us to consider and consult on with our members.
“Given developments in Wales and Scotland in the last week the Education Secretary has some catching up to do. Whilst other administrations are trying to find a way forward, the same commitment to find a settlement is now needed from ministers in Westminster.
“We have been clear that all possible options should be on the table to be explored fully and we remain committed to securing a negotiated settlement to this dispute.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
“The tone of the talks was positive and the secretary of state agreed that action is needed to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis blighting the profession, and with it, children’s learning, which felt like a small step forward.
“However, the bottom line is that there was still no new pay offer on the table. We are happy to discuss all issues harming our ability to attract and retain staff, but there is no chance of progress if the government persists in expecting our members to accept another significant real-terms wage cut following more than a decade of below-inflation pay.
“While there was agreement to meet again soon, this needs to change. The longer the government drags its heels, the greater the anger of our members, especially when they can see the administrations in Wales and Scotland taking steps in the right direction by making new offers on pay.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
“Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan held further constructive talks with union leaders today.
“They discussed a range of issues such as workload reduction, and recruitment and retention.
“The Education Secretary instructed officials to hold further detailed talks with unions and committed to more talks ahead of planned strike action.”
- Education is a devolved matter. Formal pay offers proposed in Scotland and Wales are unfunded and so would have to come out of existing budgets.
- It is important to strike a balance between what is affordable for schools and for the taxpayer.
- Strikes are hugely damaging to children’s education and wellbeing. DfE data identified significant regional variation on the impacts of strike action: 24% of schools in London were closed compared to just 4% in the West Midlands.
- Teaching unions wrote to government last year calling for an extra £2 billion for schools next year and the year after. We delivered that and by 2024-2025 schools will be funded in real terms at their highest level in history.
- We accepted the recommendations of the independent pay review body and are awarding teachers the highest pay awards in 30 years – 8.9% for new teachers outside London and 5% for experienced teachers and leaders.
- This year around 40% of classroom teachers will receive pay rises through progression or promotion up to 15.9%.
- All teachers benefit from a 23.6% employer pension contribution.