Strikes: Teachers await news from on-going intensive DfE talks

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Officials from the Department for Education are locked in intensive talks this week with education unions in a bid to finally make headway in the on-going pay dispute.

The talks have been able to go ahead after the National Education Union (NEU) held the final of its planned national strikes last week and agreed not to announce any more dates for at least two weeks.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the NASUWT, and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) are also taking part in the talks.

A joint statement from the parties involved said: “The government and the education trade unions, Association of School and College Leaders, National Association of Head Teachers, NASUWT and National Education Union, have agreed to move into a period of intensive talks. The talks will focus on teacher pay, conditions and workload reduction.

“In order for talks to begin and, we hope, reach a successful conclusion, the NEU has confirmed it will create a period of calm for two weeks during which time they have said no further strike dates will be announced.

The first meeting took place on Friday (March 17) with talks continuing over the weekend and into this week.

SecEd has been told that to “protect the integrity” of the talks, all parties have agreed not to make any public statements on the details of the talks – including through the media and on social media.

The talks are taking place in the context of the DfE recommending an average pay rise from September 2023 of just 3.5% (this encompasses a 3% proposed rise for experienced teachers and rises for new teachers to bring starting salaries up to £30,000).

The proposals for September come amid historic real-terms cuts to teachers’ pay which equate to as much as 13% since 2010. Salaries for teachers on most pay grades are expected to fall by 5% in real-terms this year alone (Sibieta, 2023).

The pay rise this year (September 2022) saw a 5% increase for school leaders and experienced teachers (M6, U1, U2, U3). Rises are higher for newer teachers, with an 8.9% rise for M1 tapering down to a 5.5% rise for M5.

However, inflation is running at 10.4% as of February 2023 after peaking at 11.1% in October 2022 (ONS, 2023).

The NEU is the only union that has successfully overcome new, tougher legal voting thresholds allowing them to take industrial action. It is currently pushing for a 10% pay rise.

However, the NAHT has said it will ballot again for industrial action should the current talks break down. The NASUWT is likely to follow suit should talks fail.

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