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Summer of 'anger' promised over teacher pay

NEU leader urges members to start preparing for strike ballot and pledges to 'lift the political temperature'

NEU protest

Ministers face a summer of anger from teachers over pay, according to the joint leader of the largest education union, who has urged his members to start preparing for a strike ballot.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, is concerned that the long-delayed announcement over a teacher pay rise means that schools will have to fund any uplift from existing dwindling budgets.

Last night, during an NEU protest outside the Department for Education in Westminster, he told his members that such a deal would be “a complete and utter outrage”.

“If it’s going to come out before September…I want resolutions from school groups, saying ‘this is outrageous, we want a strike ballot’,” he said. “We cannot accept this.

“They [ministers] are leaving [the pay announcement] late because they want anger now and they hope the anger is dissipated by September.

“We are going to show them that the anger will be now and it will grow across the summer. We are going to come back and we are going to be more angry about this whole thing.”

'Breaking point'

Mr Courtney also warned that an unfunded payday deal that forced schools to choose between cutting staff or honouring a teacher pay rise could bring the issue of school funding “to breaking point.”

He acknowledged that heads “might not go for industrial action in the way that we’re going to”.

“But headteachers are going to say this is outrageous,” Mr Courtney said. “Not having the funding is outrageous.

“And we are going to have to work with them on getting that outrage, getting it over to parents, etc, and really lifting the political temperature. But I don’t think that lifting the political temperature by those sorts of actions alone will be enough.

“So we are going to have to build the anger amongst teachers to a place where we can win those ballots and I think we can.”

Mr Courtney said the delay was “later than it has ever been before” and signalled bad news.

He speculated that the offer could be more than 2 per cent. But Mr Courtney added: "If they say 3 per cent and it’s unfunded, then that ends the national pay spines because some schools will pay it and others won’t and we will be forever in a position where we are saying we can’t have this because our school can’t afford it."

Capturing the 'public imagination'

In a clear sign of the potential battle ahead, Mr Courtney urged members to start preparing the ground for a strike ballot. He said that “industrial action about pay and school funding will catch light in the public imagination".

Around 40 London teacher members who turned out after school to join the protest were told to "reach out" to their peers in other schools to mobilise ahead of a planned ballot in the event of an unfunded pay rise. 

The NEU leader's comments were echoed by ASCL leader Geoff Barton, who warned today that an unfunded pay rise for teachers would create a crisis, forcing schools to set deficit budgets that risked them becoming insolvent.

Mr Courtney said were just five days left for an announcement if it were to be made before September, as this must be done via a ministerial statement when Parliament is in session.  The last day of Parliament before recess is on Tuesday.

The NEU submitted a joint pay claim with four other unions, including ASCL and the NAHT, which demanded 5 per cent fully funded by government. Last week, the unions’ leaders jointly sent education secretary Damian Hinds a letter urging him to end the delay.

A Department for Education spokesman said the pay announcement would be made "in due course".

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