Teachers' pay: Time is up, time for action

Written by: Dr Patrick Roach | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Time is up – after receiving no sign from the government of movement over teachers’ pay, the NASUWT has launched strike ballots. Dr Patrick Roach argues why his members must vote yes


Members of the NASUWT will be aware by now that we have announced we will be balloting in England, Scotland and Wales later this month for industrial action over pay.

This is the first time since 2011 that we have moved towards national industrial action, In the midst of the worst cost of living crisis for almost 50 years we cannot accept what amounts to the biggest real-terms pay cut for teachers in a generation.

Our members are facing unprecedented financial strain. We recently surveyed more than 6,500 members on the cost of living (NASUWT, 2022) and 97% told us they are worried about their financial situation. Furthermore, 65% said they are finding it difficult to pay their energy bills and 57% are finding it difficult to cover the cost of travelling to work; 72% are cutting back on food.

As we witnessed the prime minister attempting to prioritise tax cuts for the richest individuals and corporations, hard-working teachers were worrying about whether they can afford to turn their heating on this winter or how they will feed themselves and their families.

Our calculations indicate that a typical classroom teacher is today more than £50,000 worse off than they would have been had their pay kept pace with inflation over the last decade. Teachers’ earnings, even with the proposed pay awards currently on offer, will still lag behind where they were in 2010 in real-terms.

And not only is a below-inflation pay award unacceptable, but to rub salt into the wounds, the government has refused to provide the additional money that schools and colleges will need to pay for it.

This puts at risk teachers’ pay and their jobs. It could mean the loss of yet more teaching and support staff jobs, teaching vacancies not being filled, and fewer resources and reduced access to specialist support for pupils.

It is outrageous that we are seeing teachers’ living standards falling at a time when the country should be investing more in securing children’s education recovery after the pandemic.

It is unacceptable that teachers are being forced to work longer and longer, harder and harder than ever – but being rewarded less and less in real terms.

Our demand for a restorative fully funded pay award for teachers and headteachers, starting with 12% this year, is a necessary and reasonable response to both the current economic crisis facing teachers and the growing problem of recruitment and retention in the profession.

Over the summer we pressed for ministers to recognise the seriousness of the situation. We have asked them to get around the table to address teachers’ anger and avert the risk of future industrial action.

We have waited and we have acted responsibly. But time is up. We have now confirmed that we will be opening a ballot of NASUWT members in England and Wales on October 27 and in Scotland on October 26.

And let’s be very clear: industrial action will be the fault of government ministers who believe that they can get away with seeing our members suffering detriment to their pay and living standards.

I know that taking industrial action is the last thing teachers want to do, but we have been left with no other choice. We either fight for the profession we love or we will see more and more teachers – beginning teachers, experienced teachers, teachers across all age groups and backgrounds – forced out of the profession.

If you are an NASUWT member, please use your vote for a better deal for teachers. If you want a real pay rise, if you are struggling to make ends meet, if you agree that the pay award should be guaranteed to teachers and fully funded, then we need you to vote yes for strike action and yes for action short of strike action.

Don’t sit back and think your vote doesn’t matter. It does. As a result of the government’s trade union legislation we have to meet specific thresholds in order to be able to take industrial action, so every vote really does count.

Teachers didn’t create the cost of living crisis and teachers shouldn’t be made to pay the price for it. All we want is a decent wage for teachers so they can continue to do the amazing job they do every day. All we want is for teachers to be rewarded properly and fairly for the work they do so they can look after their families and pay their bills.

The government has the power and a duty to find a resolution to our dispute. And the best way our members can ensure they do that is to vote yes for a better deal for teachers.

  • Dr Patrick Roach is general secretary of the NASUWT.


Further information & resources

NASUWT: Cost of living crisis harming pupils' education, September 2022: https://bit.ly/3AJPiF6


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