• Support Staff: Vote to reject the pay offer, build a joint strike alongside teaching staff
  • Teachers: Vote for strike action in the National Education Union (NEU) online ballots from 24 September
  • Build for a coordinated programme of strike action, united across school unions
  • Strike to win the funding needed for pay, to reduce workload and meet students’ needs

As schools and colleges reopen for the new academic year, staff and parents alike will be worrying how they are going to manage through a winter of soaring energy, food and housing costs. School workers must answer this threat collectively, by voting to make sure we can join the growing wave of strike action to demand pay rises that match the rising cost of living.


With inflation forecast to reach over 18% by early 2023, the 5% pay award imposed on most teachers in England and Wales from this September is woefully inadequate. It is also just the latest in years of cuts that have already seen teachers’ pay fall by 20% in real terms since 2010.

Socialist Party members on the NEU national executive have been calling for months for the union to announce a timetable for a ballot for strike action on pay. In an important step forward, a preliminary online ballot of teacher members in state schools has now been called, opening on 24 September. NEU members in sixth form colleges and further education will also be balloted separately.

Every workplace group, rep and local officer must mobilise immediately to make sure the union has every teacher member’s correct current contact details, so that they receive their vote. Workplace meetings are also vital to bring members together and convince every member to vote for action.

This ‘indicative’ ballot, unhelpfully required under union rules, inevitably delays the date that the NEU can open a formal ballot for strike action. But there must be no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ the NEU must make clear that a postal ballot will quickly follow, so that a first day of strike action can be taken before Christmas. The preliminary online ballot must, nevertheless, be seriously built for, and used as a trial-run to see if, and where, additional work needs to be done to meet the 50% turnout requirement imposed by anti-trade union legislation.

A proposed timetable for a full ballot and ongoing action needs to be announced so that both members and the government know that we are fighting to win. With the other main teaching union, NASUWT, having also announced they will ballot on pay, teachers can vote for action with confidence that a firm programme of strike action, coordinated across school staff, and taken wherever possible alongside other unions in the public and private sectors too, could achieve the real pay rise that’s vitally needed.

A firm stand on pay this year must also be used as a springboard for further action to demand a complete overhaul of the existing pay and conditions document, which has not only allowed real salaries to plummet downwards but has also allowed teacher workload to spiral upwards. We need to demand a new national contract that ensures decent salaries for all staff, an end to performance pay, and fully funds guaranteed staffing levels with legal limits on overall working hours and class sizes.

School support staff

As the lowest-paid section of the school workforce, support staff desperately need an inflation-busting pay rise. But their 2022-23 pay award, even when the proposed 4% percentage and £1,925 flat-rate rise are combined, certainly won’t match the rising cost of living over the year ahead. As Unite has rightly responded: “The employers’ pay offer is another real-terms pay cut, on all pay spines. The truth is it’s an insult”.

Alongside Unison, Unite and GMB, the NEU will be consulting its support staff members over whether to reject or accept the offer. The NEU, with its consultation vote running from 1-19 September, should be following the clear lead set by Unite and recommending rejection of the offer. That rejection should be followed by a strike ballot of support staff alongside their teaching colleagues. That way, both sectors can take action together, building unity across the whole staff.

Agency supply staff

Some of the most exploited teachers in schools are agency staff. The privatisation of supply teaching has driven down pay levels well beneath the statutory entitlements that would apply to staff employed directly, with huge profit margins being taken out of school budgets by the agencies.

Because they are not employed directly by schools, agency staff won’t be included in the ballot for strike action. What’s more, the government has changed the law to make it legal to employ agency staff to cover for striking workers. Some schools may therefore try to recruit agency staff to keep classes open on strike days, to undermine union action.

Agency colleagues won’t want to be strike-breakers. But when they stand firm to support their union colleagues taking strike action, permanent staff also need to be organising to support their supply colleagues too. Union reps should talk to agency staff about their pay rates and make very clear to management that they won’t accept their schools using rip-off agencies that offer unacceptable pay.

School Funding

Of course, if pay rises are to be won, as well as workload cut and jobs protected, schools and colleges need to be fully funded to meet the needs of both staff and students. Colleagues must not be put off voting for a pay rise because they fear school budgets won’t be able to cope. The battles for both better pay and better school funding are two sides of the same coin. Strike action, supported by our school communities, is the most powerful way of winning both.