Prospect of more teachers’ strikes in England as union ‘insulted’ by pay offer

<span>Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA</span>
Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

A major teaching union has criticised ministers’ “insulting” new pay offer, raising the prospect of further walkouts in schools this spring.

The National Education Union said the offer of a 4.3% rise for most teachers plus a £1,000 one-off payment for the 2023-24 year was not enough and it will recommend that its members reject the deal.

Talks between the government and four teaching unions ended on Monday with the unions considering the offer from the Department for Education.

However, the NEU said the government was only offering to fund half a percentage point of the pay increase, with the rest expected to come out of existing school budgets.

Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU, said it does not match the offer in Scotland and Wales or address the crisis in teacher recruitment.

“This is an insulting offer from a government which simply does not value teachers,” they said.

“Not only is the offer on pay entirely out of step with the rest of the UK, it is also not fully funded. NEU analysis shows that between two in five (42%) and three in five (58%) of schools would have to make cuts to afford staff pay rises. Schools will continue to be stretched financially, and it is students who will suffer.

Related: ‘It’s about the future’: parents on the school strikes in England and Wales

“It is now crystal clear that we have an education secretary and a government that is ignoring the crisis in our schools and colleges.

“By refusing to address the legitimate and reasonable request to bring to an end more than a decade of below-inflation unfunded teacher pay increases, the government is driving teaching and recruitment retention in schools in England to breaking point.”

They said the loss of talented teachers “should be a point of shame for this government” and said they will be “considering our next steps in our campaign to stand up for the education of children and the teaching profession” when members have had their verdict on the deal. The ballot opens on Monday and closes on Sunday 2 April.

The stalemate over pay could see further strikes this spring and summer from the NEU and other teaching unions such as the NASUWT if they decide to ballot members on industrial action.

The DfE made the fresh pay offer in an effort to resolve strikes that have seen walkouts in schools across England, after progress with new pay offers in the health and transport sectors.

The offer was first revealed by Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), who made a statement saying: “Formal talks between education unions and the government have now concluded, and an offer has been made.

“NAHT’s national executive committee will be considering the details of this offer this evening. They will then decide on our next steps. We will be making no further comment this evening but will issue a further statement tomorrow.”

The offer has also been made to the other unions involved – the Association of School and College Leaders and the NASUWT.

Talks between the union leaders and Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, started on Friday in an apparent sign of the government’s willingness to end the dispute.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The government and the education unions – NAHT, ASCL, NEU and NASUWT – have engaged in intensive discussions over the last 10 days.

“The government has put forward a fair and reasonable offer, backed with funding for schools. The offer provides an average 4.5% pay rise for next year, puts £1,000 into the pockets of teachers as a one-off payment for this year, and commits to reducing workload by five hours each week.

“This is a good deal for teachers that acknowledges their hard work and dedication.”