From education to employment

School leaders in England and Wales move to formal industrial action ballot over pay and funding

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Speaking at the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Conference in Brighton today (Tues 18th Oct), Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, announced that, following a national consultation with the union’s members, school leaders across England and Wales, NAHT will be proceeding with a formal ballot on industrial action.

NAHT represents school leaders in the majority of primary schools in England. 64% of its membership responded to a survey between Tuesday 27th and Friday 14th October.

84% of respondents indicated they wanted to be balloted on taking action short of strike, should a suitable agreement on pay and funding not be reached. 55% of respondents indicated they wanted to be balloted on taking strike action.

Mr Whiteman said:

“Over the course of the last few months, I have travelled the country hearing from our members directly. I have never heard more anger and despair.

“School leaders across the country are telling me that they cannot continue to run their schools in the current circumstances. The neglect of pay in education and the funding to support it is now eroding the quality of education that our members can provide.

“Schools are caught is a vicious spiral. Insufficient pay has contributed to a recruitment and retention crisis. And the failure to fund even the insufficient award this year means that heart-breaking cuts to services will have to be made. Less people and fewer services will lead to an erosion of educational quality.

“Based on current projections, even with this year’s pay award, school leaders’ salaries will have lost about a quarter (24%)of their value since 2010. They are feeling demoralised and undervalued. Worse than that, they are finding themselves unable to provide the level of education and support for pupils that they know is needed, due to the massive cost pressures that keep piling on to school budgets and the government’s continued under-funding of education.

“Education funding is due to be 3% less in real terms in 2024/2025 than it was in 2010. Spiralling energy bills, inflationary costs, and lack of funding for teachers’ pay this year means thousands of schools are predicting going into deficit. Consequently, school leaders are being forced to make cuts that ultimately cannot help but negatively impact on the education and wellbeing of children.

“This is not a situation the dedicated and caring professionals I represent can put up with any longer. Their primary concern is the education and wellbeing of the pupils and staff in their schools. They are telling me very clearly that they feel unable to continue to operate under these circumstances.

“It is almost unprecedented for the relentlessly reasonable professionals I know our members to be, but we have no choice but to move to a formal industrial action ballot to establish what next steps they would like to take.

“No school leader would ever take any industrial action lightly, but they are telling me they feel compelled to fight for the futures of the children and young people in their care. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of education is on the line.

“I have today written to the Secretary of State for Education to inform him that we are now officially in dispute. I can only urge him and the government to listen and take urgent action.

“School leaders will do everything in their power to avoid disruption to pupils. But they are clear that to do nothing will only ensure that nothing changes. My appeal to the government is to engage with us and find a solution that serves the needs of the profession and in turn the ambition of young people.”

School leaders in Wales have also indicated their depth of concern in a survey held concurrently by NAHT Cymru. 84% of NAHT Cymru members responded, with 91% saying wanted to be balloted on action short of strike, and 64% saying they wanted to be balloted on industrial action including strike, if an agreement cannot be found.

Today (Tuesday 18th October) also sees action short of strike commence for school leaders in Northern Ireland, after 93% of NAHT(NI) members voted in favour in a formal consultative ballot

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