Teacher strikes end in England as all unions accept pay offer

ITV News' Martha Fairlie reports live as members of the National Education Union have accepted a 6.5% pay rise offer from the government

Teacher strikes in England have come to an end after members of all leading education unions agreed to accept the government's pay offer of 6.5%.

Some 86% of National Education Union members in England voted to end strike action, with 154,987 teaching staff agreeing to accept the pay rise, with a turnout of 60%.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said 85% of members who took part in an online ballot this month voted to accept the government’s offer.

And 77.6% of National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) members also agreed to stop striking, however just 18.4% of the 18,000 respondents said the measures to tackle excessive workload were sufficient.

Members of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) in England have already voted to accept the pay rise from September.

It comes after Rishi Sunak announced pay offers for all public sector workers on July 13, warning unions there would be no further negotiations.

Teaching unions in Wales and Scotland have already ended their strikes after agreeing pay rises of 8% and 7% respectively, however there is still on ongoing dispute in Northern Ireland.

Schools across the UK have been closed on numerous occasions this year, with the NEU striking for a total of eight days since February.

Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, said the action taken by its members this year had "shifted the dial, securing the highest pay award for over thirty years".

But in a video shared to Twitter, they insisted they were not grateful to the government, which they said should have gone further.

“Our emotion is not at all one of gratitude towards the government," Mr Courtney said, “they could and should have settled this matter earlier – they could and should have offered more."

The NEU bosses warned the government that the union will continue to be robust in fighting for teachers on pay and conditions, adding “next year’s pay round is a whole other argument".

In a statement, they said: "This is a compelling case for trade unions in the 21st century, as well as collective action with sister unions, and it is time for the government to get out of the dark ages and end the practice of mail-only ballots.

“The government should be in no doubt that we will hold its feet to the fire on delivering for teachers and support staff on workload and funding."

They added: "It remains the view of the NEU that school and college funding is far from adequate. It remains a commitment of the NEU to campaign for further increases in teacher pay.

“Everyone in the school and colleges community deserves an education system that attracts and keeps teaching staff, and one that ensures every child gets the attention and support they deserve. Our campaign for a better-funded education system will not go away.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said the prospect of strike action in the autumn “is no longer necessary” despite the union securing a strike mandate for the next six months.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said members "do not believe that [6.5%] is sufficient redress for the impact of more than a decade of real-terms pay cuts, where the value of teachers’ pay has declined by 25%".

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"Furthermore, our members do not agree that sufficient action is yet being taken to address their concerns over excessive workload and long working hours.

“We have today written to the education secretary calling on the government to do more to address our members’ demands for pay restoration and immediate action to tackle excessive workload and long working hours.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said it was "good news for teachers, good news for parents, and most of all, good news for children", that the union had accepted the offer.

“The deal brings an end to the disruption faced by parents and young people and means we can focus on what matters most – giving our children a world class education.

"That means tackling persistent absence and getting every child through the school gates every day, a relentless focus on closing the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, and continued action to help young people make up for time lost during the pandemic.

"None of that is possible without the hard work of teachers. So as a new school year approaches, I am looking forward to working closely with teachers, school leaders and teaching unions to make sure we’re tackling the issues that matter most and delivering the education that every child deserves - wherever they are in the country.”