Headteachers’ union holds first ever strike ballot over pay

NAHT boss says union is ‘officially in dispute’ with education secretary

Zoe Tidman
Tuesday 18 October 2022 12:27 BST
Headteachers will be balloted for strike action, NAHT union says (PA)
Headteachers will be balloted for strike action, NAHT union says (PA) (PA Wire)

A headteachers’ union is to ballot its members for strike action in a row over pay for the first time in its 125-year history.

The the NAHT’s general secretary said he had told the education secretary the two parties are “now officially in dispute” over wages and funding

“I can only urge him and the government to listen and take urgent action,” Paul Whiteman added.

The union held a recent survey which found most members in England and Wales supported a ballot for industrial action short of a strike. Even though fewer respondents supported a ballot for strike action, they were still in the majority of those who replied.

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Mr Whiteman announced the historic ballot on formal industrial action during a speech at a conference on Tuesday.

The union has never before held a national ballot of its members in a row over pay in its 125-year history.

“Over the course of the last few months, I have travelled the country hearing from our members directly. I have never heard more anger and despair,” Mr Whiteman, its general secretary, told a conference on Tuesday.

“School leaders across the country are telling me that they cannot continue to run their schools in the current circumstances. The neglect of pay in education and the funding to support it is now eroding the quality of education that our members can provide.

“Schools are caught is a vicious spiral. Insufficient pay has contributed to a recruitment and retention crisis. And the failure to fund even the insufficient award this year means that heart-breaking cuts to services will have to be made.”

Teachers unions joined protests over the cost-of-living crisis earlier this year (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

Most teachers have been awarded a below-inflation pay rise of 5 per cent this year. But schools say they are having to find the money for the pay increases themselves from already stretched budgets.

Mr Whiteman told the Trade Union Congress conference education staff were reporting feeling “unable to continue to operate” in current circumstances.

“It is almost unprecedented for the relentlessly reasonable professionals I know our members to be, but we have no choice but to move to a formal industrial action ballot to establish what next steps they would like to take,” he said.

“No school leader would ever take any industrial action lightly, but they are telling me they feel compelled to fight for the futures of the children and young people in their care. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of education is on the line.”

The union represents school leaders in most primary schools in England. Most members who responded to a recent survey said they wanted to be balloted on action short of a strike if an agreement over pay and funding cannot be reached. Over half - 55 per cent - wanted to take things further with a ballot on strike action.

Its Welsh branch, NAHT Cymru, also found the majority of respondents wanted ballots in this case.

The Department for Education has been approached for comment.

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