Headteachers could be balloted again over strikes after union rejects pay offer

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School leaders in England could be balloted again over strike action after union members overwhelmingly rejected the Government’s pay offer.

More than three-quarters (78%) of National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) members who voted said they would be prepared to vote for action up to and including strikes if the deal was turned down.

Speaking to the media at the National Education Union’s (NEU) annual conference in Harrogate, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said it was a “strong ballot result”.

He said the union executive will meet this month to discuss next steps, which could include a second formal ballot on industrial action.

Overall, 64% of NAHT members in England responded to the union’s online consultative ballot, with 90% voting to reject the offer.

He added that the vote showed “improved support” for action, and the 78% who said they would be willing to vote for industrial action was a “strong indication” of support.

The NAHT is the third education union to reject the offer.

The NEU is planning five days of teacher walkouts in the summer term and possible action in the autumn in the dispute over pay.

The Government offered teachers a £1,000 one-off payment for the current school year (2022/23) and an average 4.5% pay rise for staff next year (2023/24) after a period of talks with unions.

In January, a ballot of NAHT members failed to meet the mandatory 50% turnout threshold required for strike action.

Mr Whiteman is hopeful the union would pass the threshold if it held a new ballot as there would not be a “postal dispute to contend with”.

Asked if the NAHT could co-ordinate with the NEU to hold mass walkouts if the union secured a mandate for strike action, Mr Whiteman said: “I think we need to also keep an eye on what ASCL choose to do and what the NASUWT will announce later on this week.

“I can’t imagine a situation where all unions would be in dispute and we wouldn’t co-ordinate action in some way.”

“But the symbolism of school leaders saying you cannot separate us from our teams and we are standing up for education in the same way as our teams is really very, very important.

“What school leaders are saying is they’re prepared to take action to show that they can’t find any more solutions.”

Delegates at the NEU’s annual conference on Tuesday voted in support of a three-day strike in late June/early July.

The union announced two further strike days on April 27 and May 2 on Monday after 98% of members who responded in a consultative ballot voted to turn down the Government’s pay offer.

In a speech to the NEU’s annual conference on Wednesday, Mr Whiteman said: “I can tell you that school leaders really do stand with teachers. School leaders are teachers.”

Mr Whiteman, who received a standing ovation from NEU delegates, told the conference: “I’m proud of the work that my sisters and brothers in the NEU have done. That old trade union adage that there’s more that unites us than divides us could not be truer in education today.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said: “After costing children almost a week of time in the classroom and with exams fast approaching, it is extremely disappointing that the NEU are re-balloting for more strike action up until Christmas this year.

“The offer was funded, including major new investment of over half a billion pounds, and helps tackle issues teachers are facing like workload.

“NEU, NAHT and ASCL’s decision to reject this offer will simply result in more disruption for children and less money for teachers today.”

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