Headteachers began voting for the first time ever on strike action yesterday over the Government's threat to their pensions.
Members of the National Association of Head Teachers started balloting on the first strike in their 114-year history.
The result will be known early in November – in time for them to join in the planned day of action by millions of civil servants, teachers and local government workers on 30 November.
Soundings of its members by the NAHT have shown that a majority – about seven out of 10 – back the plan for a strike. If it went ahead, most schools in England and Wales would be closed for the day.
"That reasonable heads are pushed to this extreme demonstrates the failure of the Government's approach to negotiation," said Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT."
At issue is the Government's plan to raise the retirement age, seek bigger contributions towards pensions and base them on average salary rather than end-of-career earnings.
This last move will hit headteachers the hardest as some earn more than £150,000 a year in salary.
They argue that the increased contributions and cuts will make many people reluctant to join the profession in future.
Yesterday two more unions joined those balloting for strike action over pensions: Prospect and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists – again not noted for their militancy.
Negotiations with the Government over the proposed changes are still continuing, with union leaders saying the Government has been unwilling to make concessions.