The latest round of talks with officials from the Department for Education have focused on reducing teacher and leader workload.
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“The NEU is pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed with the Prime Minister and Chancellor to move into substantive formal talks with the NEU to end the dispute between us.
‘Our dispute is about seeking pay increases for teachers which at least match price increases, and for any pay rises to be fully funded in school budgets.
‘We have made that dispute clear to the DfE ministers since July of last year, and we have met in talks since January 9. However, in the talks so far the DfE has not made any offers on pay for this year, nor engaged in any substantive talks about pay for next year.
‘Hopefully, this new commitment to talks to “end the dispute” signals a change in the willingness of the DfE to countenance change.
‘However, the letter from the DfE offering talks still contains no suggestion that they are willing to talk about pay rises this year and are willing to fund them. And the DfE’s evidence to the STRB published today suggest a pay rise of 3% for experienced teachers for next Sept. This is still less than the current forecast for RPI and CPI inflation for quarter three this year- so that projected rise will amount to a further pay cut on top of the already substantial pay cuts since 2010.
‘We are willing to talk at any time: but there is nothing substantial in the Secretary of State’s letter that suggests to us we should call off strikes for next week.
‘However, our national executive meets on Saturday, they could change that decision. There is time for the DfE to make clear that they will talk about pay rises for this school year and would fund those potential pay rises. There is time for them to tell us they are willing to move beyond a 3% pay rise for next September and to fund such pay rises”.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
“While today’s talks were polite, they were frankly meandering and with industrial action on the horizon once again, it is actions that are now required.
“We are pleased to have been invited to further formal talks on pay with the Secretary of State later this week. We hope these discussions will have a greater degree of urgency and ultimately result in the long overdue improvements to teacher pay and conditions that are needed to end this dispute. That is surely in the best interests of children and young people.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
“We welcome the invitation to intensive talks with the Department for Education over the coming days in an attempt to resolve this dispute.
“We fully expect discussions on pay to be central to those meetings and a fair offer will be key to moving beyond the polite discussions so far to a point where we can hope for tangible progress towards an agreement.
“However, we have no control over action by a fellow union and it would be naive beyond belief for the DfE to pull the plug on these talks even before they have begun on that basis. That would demonstrate a government out of its depth when it comes to industrial relations with little clue about what it takes to come to an agreement.
“Our members have waited long enough, seeing their pay fall in real terms by nearly a fifth since 2010 at the same time as ever-increasing workload, high-stakes accountability and the massive impact of the pandemic upon schools and children’s learning.
“They will expect the government to be serious about these talks and come forward with an offer that reflects the lengths they go to day in day out for pupils and helps solve the recruitment and retention crisis.”