A national teachers’ strike will take place next month, TES can reveal.
NUT members in England and Wales will hold an all-out, one-day strike on 26 March, in the latest phase of the unions’ ongoing campaign of industrial action over pay, pensions and working conditions.
However it is not yet clear whether the NASUWT, which has held regional strikes and an ongoing campaign of “action short of strike action” alongside the NUT, will also take part. A final decision is expected to be made at the next meeting of its executive on 14 February.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower blamed the strike on Michael Gove's "persistant refusals to address our ongoing dispute", which she described as "unnecessary and deeply damaging".
“The NUT and NASUWT met with government officials in October – now over 17 weeks ago," she said. "Reassurances were given that Michael Gove would talk about a wide range of matters on implementation of pay and pensions and the direction of travel and implementation on conditions. Subsequently, the education secretary has put obstacle after obstacle in the way of talks, showing no serious attempt to resolve – or even to discuss – the matters in dispute.
“We on the other hand have made every effort. We cancelled the strike planned for November and postponed action in February. We have indicated we will meet with Michael Gove anywhere, any time to seek to resolve the disputes in the interest of the education service."
Both unions previously announced plans for a joint national strike before Christmas, but in October revealed that the action had been shelved, claiming that the education secretary had agreed to talks in order to resolve the dispute.
At the time they insisted that, unless the talks yielded sufficient progress, a national strike would take place by 13 February.
But Mr Gove subsequently insisted that all of the education unions should also attend the talks, as well as union alternative Edapt – much to the consternation of the NUT and NASUWT. No official talks with the education secretary have yet taken place.
TES understands that the NUT held back from announcing an earlier strike in the hope of persuading the NASUWT to take part as well.
“Whatever their decision is, our executive has decided to hold a day of national strike on 26 March,” Ms Blower told TES.
“We think it would be in the best interests of the profession for the NASUWT to take action alongside us.”
However Ms Blower insisted that if the NASUWT decided against striking, this would not jeopardise the unions’ “historic” joint declaration or ongoing “work-to-rule” action.
“[Whether to hold a national strike before Easter] is a matter for them to decide,” she added. “We will discuss with the NASUWT what [motions] we put to our annual conferences over Easter, and continue to work with them in all the ways we can.”
Ms Blower told TES that Mr Gove’s education policies were “damaging education”, and his focus on free schools and reforming teachers’ pay had resulted in a “recruitment and school places crisis”.
She added that teachers "deeply regret" taking strike action, and that an offer of "serious and substantive talks" - plus a commitment to withdraw changes to teachers' pay, pensions and conditions of service - would avert the action.
A statement from the NASUWT revealed that the union has today written to Mr Gove "to reiterate its request for discrete meetings to be called to seek to resolve the trade dispute on teachers’ pay, pensions, workload and conditions of service and job loss, through constructive dialogue".
General secretary Chris Keates said: “The secretary of state needs to take the window of opportunity the NASUWT has offered to him to build trust and confidence with the teaching profession and to demonstrate that he is willing to discuss their deep concerns.
“The NASUWT remains committed to securing genuine dialogue in order to resolve the current trade dispute."
The Department for Education said the public supported them on performance-related pay, and that the move by the NUT would not go down well with parents.
“Parents will struggle to understand why the NUT is pressing ahead with strikes over the government's measures to let heads pay good teachers more," A DfE spokesperson said. "They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and those talks will begin shortly.
“Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is nevertheless taking strike action that will disrupt parents' lives, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession.”