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Biggest teaching union threatens new round of school strikes

Daniel Kebede
Daniel Kebede has written to Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, calling for talks on school funding - Geoff Pugh

Britain’s biggest teaching union is threatening a new round of school strikes that could force classrooms to close later this year.

The National Education Union (NEU) said it would launch an indicative ballot on March 2 to test members’ appetite for strike action.

The move comes after Daniel Kebede, the NEU’s leader, wrote to Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, on Thursday calling for talks on school funding and how the “competitiveness of teachers’ pay can be addressed”.

The union, which has about 300,000 members in England and Wales, inflicted months of walkouts on schools last year, calling an end to industrial action when the Government agreed to give teachers a 6.5 per cent pay rise for 2023-24.

Ministers also committed to increase school funding by £4 billion over two years.

Union ‘shocked’ by Keegan’s remarks

Mrs Keegan has written to the pay review body for schools, which makes recommendations on teachers’ pay, warning that last year’s pay rise required “a significant and exceptional additional investment in school funding”.

She said it was “vital” that the pay review body considered “the historic nature of the 2023-24 award and the Government’s affordability position” when it made its recommendation for teachers’ pay in 2024-25.

Responding to the letter this week, Mr Kebede said the NEU was “shocked” that the Education Secretary had said last year’s pay award was “exceptional” rather than “the start of a process to address the competitiveness of teachers’ pay”.

He added: “We do not believe schools will be able to afford any pay rise for teachers after they have increased support staff pay, due to the increase in the National Living Wage, and covered non-staff costs without making cuts to educational provision.”

A spokesman for the NEU said: “The NEU executive have agreed to hold an indicative ballot of teacher members in March. It will ask members about their willingness to take strike action for a fully-funded pay increase as a meaningful step to achieve a long-term correction in pay.”

The Department for Education is consulting on plans to introduce minimum service levels in schools, which could force teachers to work on strike days.

Options being considered include one that would mean unions would have to ensure that vital cohorts such as those in exam years, those with special educational needs and the children of key workers continued to have a full education.

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