Head teachers in England reject pay offer

A teacher with primary school childrenGetty Images

A head teachers’ union in England has voted overwhelmingly to reject the government’s pay offer for teachers.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), mainly representing primary heads, is considering balloting members again over strike action.

It is the third union to reject the offer – including the National Education Union (NEU), which is planning further strikes.

The government says further strike action is “extremely disappointing”.

Most state school teachers in England had a 5% pay rise in 2022.

They were offered a 4.3% rise next year, as well as a £1,000 one-off payment this year. Starting salaries would also rise to £30,000 from September.

The government said it believed schools could afford to fund most of the pay rise from their budgets, and that extra money would have been provided to make up the rest.

But unions have been campaigning for a fully funded pay rise, arguing that taking the money from schools’ budgets could mean they have to make cuts elsewhere.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, told the BBC that members felt “insulted” by the offer, which was not “properly funded”.

“Almost all of our members have told us that it’s not affordable in their budgets,” he said.

“The government works on big averages across the system, but I’m afraid what that doesn’t do is tell you what’s happening in each individual school.

“Every school is unique and it’s funding very different things depending on its circumstances.”

He called on the government to “come back to the negotiating table” – though the government has said this offer would be its last.

Joanne Hall, head teacher at Merritts Brook primary school in Birmingham, told the BBC that teachers deserved a pay rise, but funding them from school budgets would mean making cuts elsewhere.

“I think that is quite a scary prospect for a number of head teachers because what do you do next?” she asked.

“What do you cut next, when you’re already running a really tight budget?”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The offer was funded, including major new investment of over half a billion pounds, and helps tackle issues teachers are facing like workload.”

Unions’ rejection of the offer would “simply result in more disruption for children and less money for teachers today”, they said.

The government added that “after costing children almost a week of time in the classroom and with exams fast approaching” the NEU’s vote to re-ballot for more strike action in the next academic year was “extremely disappointing”.

The NAHT, which has 37,000 members working in schools, has not been on strike in England.

It balloted its members on industrial action this year, but failed to meet the legally required 50% turnout threshold to organise strikes.

In a survey of NAHT members over the past week, 78% of respondents said they wanted to vote again and take industrial action, and 90% voted to reject the improved pay offer.

The NEU and Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) also turned down the deal, and the NASUWT union ballot of members closes this week.

NEU members have voted for five strike dates next term, three of which have yet to be confirmed.

The dispute is formally about pay, but unions have also been campaigning on issues such as workload, and recruitment and retention.

Teacher salaries fell by an average of 11% between 2010 and 2022, after taking inflation into account, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

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