From education to employment

ASCL survey on industrial action shows strength of feeling

Geoff Barton, General Secretary, ASCL

ASCL recently surveyed members affected by the proposed teachers’ pay award for 2022/23. We used some of the survey data in our consultation response. We also asked members what steps we should take over the fact that the proposed pay award is well below the rate of inflation and a further erosion of the real value of pay since 2010. This included questions on industrial action. There were 2,203 responses from senior leaders in English schools. We asked whether ASCL should run an indicative ballot for action short of strike action, such as withdrawing from certain tasks (Yes, 69%; No, 31%), and an indicative ballot on strike action (Yes, 50%; No, 50%).

The government is proposing a pay award of 5% for most teachers and leaders in 2022/23 – a significant real-terms cut compared to Retail Prices Index inflation currently running at 12.3% and a further decline in the real value of pay which has already fallen by a fifth since 2010. This is a major cause of a recruitment and retention crisis which is causing widespread teacher shortages.

Furthermore, as well as being inadequate this pay award is also unaffordable for many schools because there is no additional funding from the government to enable them to pay the award to their staff. This leaves them in an impossible position of having to make budget cuts that will impact on educational provision in order to pay their teachers.

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

“Our members are traditionally extremely reluctant to consider any form of industrial action, and it is therefore remarkable that a majority of survey respondents favour an indicative ballot on action short of strike action, let alone the fact that half back holding an indicative ballot on strike action.

“There is huge frustration not only over the erosion of senior leader pay over the past decade, but also over funding and teacher shortages. The government is refusing to give schools the money they need to pay the award to their staff which will leave them with no choice other than to cut educational provision. In addition, real-terms cuts to teacher pay have led to severe recruitment and retention problems and many schools are struggling to put teachers in front of classes.

“School leaders fear this desperate situation will undermine educational standards and undo the work of their professional lives. They have had enough, and the result of this survey is a reflection of the strength of feeling that exists.

“We have to proceed cautiously over the issue of industrial action. The legislative requirements for action to be lawful are complex. At least 50% of eligible members would need to vote in a ballot, which is a much higher number than those who took part in the survey. There are also a number of other legal requirements which make any such move very challenging. So, the survey forms one part of our consultation process, and over the coming weeks we will be talking to members in person at ASCL events and further gauging views.

“In the meantime, we will continue to campaign for an improvement in teacher pay and education funding by directly lobbying government, highlighting the issue in the media, and working with other organisations to bring about a better settlement for schools and colleges.”

Note: The survey was sent to 13,693 senior leaders in state-funded schools in England and the response rate was 16%.

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