School strikes to go ahead after teachers reject government's 'insulting' pay offer

Parents can expect more school disruption in the coming weeks after teachers overwhelmingly rejected an 'insulting' pay off, Carl Dinnen reports

Teachers from the National Education Union (NEU) have rejected what leaders have described as an 'insulting' pay offer, and will now stage further strikes in England this spring.

According to the union, 98% of members who took part in the ballot turned down the deal.

They said Education Secretary Gillian Keegan's latest pay offer "did not cut the mustard" and are now warning strike action could carry on into the autumn months.

Both Ms Keegan and Rishi Sunak branded the result "extremely disappointing", with Mr Sunak saying further strikes will be "enormously damaging" to children's education.

Teachers at the NEU conference in Harrogate respond to Monday's ballot result

After a period of talks, teachers had been offered a one-off payment of £1,000 for the current school year and a 4.3% pay rise for most staff next year (2023/24).

But according to the NEU, the deal represents another two years of real-terms pay cuts and teachers in England would see their pay fall further behind their counterparts in Wales and Scotland.

Speaking to ITV News at the NEU's annual conference in Harrogate, a special needs teacher from County Durham, Laura Beckham, said: "The fact that so many teachers have chosen not to accept the pay rise is a real reflection on how insulting it is."

"Our children and education system is suffering. I've been striking because I believe that schools need more funding, it's as simple as that. If it's unfunded, we'll lose our teaching assistants. I need my teaching assistants to teach. The children deserve better, and the schools deserve better."

Science teacher Emma Brady said NEU members are "fed up" and "absolutely tired of doing more for less". Further strikes are scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 27 and Tuesday, May 2, with the union urging Ms Keegan to come forward with a renewed pay offer.

More strikes will be 'enormously damaging', warns Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

Responding to the result of the ballot, the education secretary said: "After costing children almost a week of time in the classroom and with exams fast approaching, it is extremely disappointing that the NEU have called more strike action."

Ms Keegan added: "The NEU's decision to reject it will simply result in more disruption for children and less money for teachers today. Pay will now be decided by the independent pay review body which will recommend pay rises for next year."

NEU Joint General Secretary, Kevin Courtney, tells Education Secretary Gillian Keegan that teachers 'might accept' similar offer as teachers in Scotland

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, told ITV News: "We want to say to Gillian Keegan, these strike days are more than three weeks away. There is still time for her to make an offer to resolve the dispute to stop the strikes going ahead."

Mr Courtney added: "There can be flexibility on offers we would put to our members. I think if she [Ms Keegan] were to offer us what Scottish teachers have got, and if it were fully funded, our members might accept that."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says he is 'disappointed' by the announcement

Following the ballot results, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged teaching unions and the Government to get back to the negotiating table.

Mr Starmer told LBC: “I am disappointed because I want to see this resolved. Obviously it is back around the negotiating table now but I would urge both sides to compromise and to come to an agreement as quickly as possible.”

He added: “Obviously I support their right to take industrial action, it is very important I say that.

“But I will be clear, I don’t want to see industrial action and that is why I want the government around the table resolving this. It is possible to resolve these disputes, and the sooner the government gets on with that the better.”

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