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When are the next school strikes? NEU warns of walkout during exams after criticising Government pay offer

The i 28/03/2023 Alannah Francis

The leader of the UK’s largest teaching union has refused to rule out fresh strikes which disrupt students’ exams, after recommending that members reject an “insulting” pay offer from the Government.

The joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), Dr Mary Bousted, said teachers did not want walkouts to impact exams but it would depend on the Government’s response.

Dr Bousted told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Our executive committee looked carefully at the offer and decided it was really insulting and that the union had to offer advice to members, who will either take that advice or ignore us.”

Asked whether strikes could disrupt exams, she said: “We really hope that that doesn’t take place.

“What we hope is that if the members do reject the offer, we want to go back to the Government and say: ‘you have to do better’, reopen negotiations, and let’s see if we can get an offer that members will find respectable.”

Dr Bousted previously told i the union would likely pause strike action during the exam season, but that the union would rule nothing out in its campaign to secure better pay for teachers.

What’s the reason for the dispute?

Teachers are locked in a dispute with the Government over pay and funding.

The Government has offered teachers a new pay deal, which includes a one-off £1,000 cash payment this year and a 4.3 per cent rise for most teachers next year. But the offer is significantly lower than unions’ demands of an above-inflation pay offer.

It also falls short of what teachers in Scotland and Wales have been given.

In Scotland, teachers have accepted a 7 per cent rise for 2022-23, which will be backdated to April, a 5 per cent rise in April 2023 and a 2 per cent uplift in January 2024.

Teachers in Wales have accepted an 8 per cent pay offer increase for 2022-23, which includes a 6.5 per cent rise and a one-off lump sum payment, plus a 5 per cent increase for 2023-24.

Responding to the Government’s offer to teachers in England, Dr Bousted said: “This offer is less than teachers in Scotland and Wales have been offered.

“It does nothing to address the long-term decline in teacher pay and therefore does nothing to solve the problems in teacher recruitment and retention.”

When are the next school strikes?

The NEU has urged teachers not to accept the Government’s latest pay offer.

However, the decision will ultimately be taken by its members who are being balloted on the package until 2 April.

Other education unions – NASUWT and the Association of School and College Leaders said they will ask for feedback from their members. The headteachers’ union, NAHT, said its national executive committee will consider the details before deciding its next steps.

The NEU has a six-month mandate for industrial action, which means teachers can continue striking throughout GCSEs and A-Levels, which start in mid-May and end in mid-June.

Asked a second time on BBC’s Today programme if strikes would disrupt exams, Dr Bousted said: “We will plan more strike dates. We don’t want to disrupt exams and we will try to ensure that we do reopen negotiations.”

Pressed on the issue a third time, she said: “We have conference next week, and conference will decide the plan of action, but no teacher wants to disrupt exam dates at all, so it’s up to the Government.”

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