Photo: Paul Mattsson
Photo: Paul Mattsson

Steve Scott, NEU NEC, personal capacity

The National Education Union (NEU) has called all its teacher members in England out on strike for the final time this academic year. This follows Tory education secretary Gillian Keegan refusing to release the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) report – an ‘independent’ body of ‘experts’ which makes pay recommendations to the government. 

We know she has it, and we believe it recommends a 6.5% uplift, as leaked by the Times. The reason she is holding on to it is simple. She is not going to accept the recommendation. Doing so could put an end to this system, as for years governments have conveniently hidden behind independent bodies when dishing out real-term pay cuts.

While we welcome direct negotiations with the government rather than submitting evidence to this ‘independent’ body of accountants, corporate HR and business consultants, we demand the government releases this report.

Even then, an offer of 6.5% is below the double-digit inflation we have seen in the past year, and does nothing to reverse the years of below-inflation pay rises education staff have been subjected to. And again, without a rise being fully funded, schools would have to make tough choices on where to make cuts. This would mean more redundancies, larger class sizes, fewer resources and less help for the most disadvantaged pupils as more support staff are not replaced.

And it is not even a given that an offer will come. The Tories have been very clear that they are considering a very low, potential zero, pay rise for next year, as we’ve seen in the Telegraph.

Meanwhile, Labour’s Rachel Reeves is talking about being ‘fiscally responsible’, and the Labour Party is offering teachers £2,400 after their second year. This ignores the problem! There is a recruitment and retention crisis amongst teachers. A small bonus after two years will do very little to stem the flow of teachers out of the profession.

An inflation-proof pay rise, a reversal of ten years of pay cuts, full funding, and an overhaul of Ofsted and workload in schools, are needed to save education.

We will need to put pressure on the government in September, and the best way to do this is through coordinated action. The NEU is reballoting all members, including support staff, alongside ballots in the other teaching and heads’ unions, NASUWT, NAHT and ASCL. Unison and Unite are also balloting in local government, including schools. This means, if successful, all workers in school, regardless of their union, will be able to take action. Picket lines with headteachers standing shoulder to shoulder with cooks, teachers, cleaners and teaching assistants would show the government, whoever is in power, that we are serious about the fight that is to come.