Bath Voice News: teachers lobby parliament ahead of taking strike action in July

By Harry Mottram: Following a rash of strikes that have affected hospitals, railways and the civil service today members of the teaching union the National Education Union (NEU) are to lobby MPs in parliament on Tuesday, June 20th, 2023.

The teachers plan two days of strikes in July in their campaign to improve pay and conditions. The days of action will be on Wednesday July the 5th and Friday July 7th affecting schools across Bath and the rest of England. The NEU have already organised five national and three regional strike days since February with no sign an agreement with the Government is likely to happen soon,

Most state school teachers in England had a 5% pay rise for the year 2022-23, while the government offered a £1,000 one-off cash payment but this has been withdrawn after talks failed. The teaching unions want the pay rise to match inflation which is in double digits. So far they the Government have offered a 4.3% rise for the next academic year which they feel is a fair offer as they battle to bring down inflation.

Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union, said: “It is within Gillian Keegan’s grasp for this action to be halted. Time and again the National Education Union, alongside its sister unions, have called for the Education Secretary to get around the negotiation table to settle this dispute for a fully-funded teacher pay increase. Time and again our calls have fallen on stony ground.  

‘The Education Secretary refused to re-enter negotiation on the grounds that she and her Department were waiting for the publication of the School Teachers’ Review Body’s recommendation on pay. This week she has written to us saying:  “I can confirm that I have received the (STRB ) report and its recommendations. I am aware of speculation published in the Sunday Times, and reported elsewhere in the media, on what these recommendations are. I am sure you will understand that the government will not comment on this speculation whilst it considers its response to the report”.

‘This sentence causes us to worry that the Government is contemplating not implementing the report or not funding it properly. Gillian Keegan also says that she will publish the report in her own good time, which by her Department’s recent record will be at least another month. This causes huge uncertainty for schools and is hugely disrespectful to headteachers. None are able to properly plan for next year. 

‘Unlike her counterparts in Scotland and Wales where the pay disputes have been settled, this Education Secretary has wilfully turned her back on teachers in ‘England. No one wants to take strike action but when faced with an Education Secretary who clearly has no interest in settling this dispute, teachers are left with no option. Gillian Keegan could avoid the strikes in July by publishing the STRB report, entering substantive talks with us and the education unions, ASCL, NAHT and NASUWT to find a settlement on its response to the report, its funding and this year’s pay rise”.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Further strike action will cause real damage to pupil learning and even more disruption for parents right across the country. Thousands of schools are receiving significant additional funding as part of the extra £2bn of investment we are providing for both 2023/24 and 2024/25 which will take school funding its highest level in history next year, as measured by the IFS. 

“As part of the normal process, the independent School Teachers’ Review Body has submitted its recommendations to government on teacher pay for 2023/24. We will be considering the recommendations and will publish our response in the usual way.” 

For parents of school children the strikes can be a problem with reports in the national media that some take unpaid leave from their jobs to care for their children. The Times Educational Supplement have reported on some parents joining the picket lines in support for the teachers while for some parents who work from home or are not in employment the problem is minimal. Of course many teachers are also parents so some of them will be affected differently. In short whatever the rights and wrongs there will be disruption for many families and businesses – but there is no sign the unions and the Government are likely to agree to a deal soon.

The image is from the NEU.

Bath Voice Monthly Newspaper is distributed free to thousands of homes and some supermarkets – distributed from the first of the month. Harry Mottram is the News Editor

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Harry Mottram is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Telegram, TikTok and Mobile: 07789 864769