Exclusive: Industrial action over teachers' pay 'on the cards'

NEU executives discuss ballot preparations but union says 'no decision' will be taken before pay proposals are released

In order to attract maths and science graduates into teaching, and keep them there, we need to offer better financial rewards, writes Luke Sibieta

A plan to ballot for industrial action over teachers’ pay in September is already “on the cards” amid fears that the delayed announcement on salaries signals a disappointing offer, it has emerged.

As schools head into their last week before the summer holidays, unions are bewildered by the length of the delay by education secretary Damian Hinds in publishing the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) report pay recommendations for September 2018, and announcing his response.

Many fear that the fact that teachers have still not had word of their pay rise for September could be due to the Department for Education struggling to find ways of offering a funded pay rise, and that the figure proposed will be well below what unions have called for.

Tes understands that the executives of both the NUT and the ATL sections of the NEU teaching union have already raised the spectre of preparing for a ballot when they met respectively in the past few weeks. 

Dave Harvey, a London member of the NUT section’s national executive, said: “The fact that the STRB report has been with the Department for Education for eight weeks suggests to us that it is not going to be good news for schools because the [pay] award, whatever it is, is not going to be funded.

Will any teacher pay rise be funded?

"That discussion at government level has to be ‘how much of this award, if any, can we fund?’ and we are drawing the conclusion that it is not going to be funded and, therefore, industrial action is on the cards.”

A NEU spokesperson said: "No decision has been taken yet about the course of action because we are still waiting to see what the STRB recommends and what the education secretary decides." 

Five unions – the Association of School and College Leaders, NAHT, NEU, Voice and UCAC – submitted a joint pay claim for a fully funded 5 per cent cost-of-living increase for all teachers.

Last Friday, the five unions wrote a letter to Mr Hinds, together with other unions, demanding to know when he will publish.

Kevin Courtney, joint leader of the NEU, wrote in Tes that the delay was “disrespectful to headteachers, who have to plan budgets".

"It is disrespectful to teachers," he said. "It is confusing to students contemplating which career path to start down.”

Teacher activists are set to lobby the Department for Education after work tomorrow to call for the government to reveal the pay offer, and are promoting the #WhereistheSTRB social media hashtag.

A DfE spokesperson said:“The education secretary has been clear that there can be no great schools without great teachers.

“That is why we have committed to making sure that teaching remains an attractive and fulfilling profession, and are working with the unions to strip away workload that doesn’t add value, improve conditions and offer all teachers high-quality professional development.

“We are considering the STRB report carefully and will respond in due course.”

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