The first in a series of regional strikes by the two largest teaching unions were going ahead today (Thursday, June 27) after talks with the government broke down.
Last week, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and NASUWT met with education secretary Michael Gove to try to resolve disputes on pay, pensions and conditions.
However, after the meeting the unions confirmed that the one-day walk-out in the North West of England will go ahead.
They are angry at changes to pension arrangements including a 50 per cent increase to contributions and the raising of the retirement age to 68, as well as the move to performance-related pay for classroom teachers.
They are also frustrated at what they say is a lack of recognition of the problems with workload, stress and low morale within the profession.
A joint statement issued by the unions after the meeting said: “Over the last year, despite the education secretary’s protestations that he continues to talk to the NUT and NASUWT to resolve the dispute, he has made no effort to hold serious discussions with both unions or cease his escalating attacks on teachers. (The) meeting provided him with an opportunity to avoid strike action on 27 June and demonstrate that he values teachers and wants to support and work with us.
“Instead he failed yet again even to acknowledge the extent of teachers’ dissatisfaction and crumbling morale, let alone make any moves to meet the three reasonable demands we have put to him in order to avoid strike action. For that reason, our strike action on 27 June goes ahead.”
The unions want Mr Gove to hold a series of meetings to discuss the dispute and are demanding he suspends the planned move to performance-related pay. They say they “stand ready” to meet with Mr Gove again.
However, the dispute is expected to worsen this week after the Department for Education (DfE) called for the limit on teachers’ working hours to be scrapped along with the Workload Agreement, which lists 21 administrative tasks that teachers should not be expected to do (see SecEd's report, Is this the end of the Workload Agreement?).
Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “Unfortunately, despite our willingness to engage constructively to resolve the dispute and avoid strike action, the secretary of state seems determined to continue arrogantly to disregard the concerns of teachers.”
Her NUT counterpart, Christine Blower, added: “Responsibility for strike action on June 27 rests firmly with the secretary of state. He has utterly failed to engage with NASUWT and NUT on the critical issues of our disputes.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Industrial action will disrupt pupils’ education, hugely inconvenience parents and damage the profession’s reputation in the eyes of the public at a time when our reforms are driving up standards. It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are opposing measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more. We have met frequently with the NUT and NASUWT to discuss their concerns and will continue to do so.”
Strike action will affect 22 local authorities including Blackpool, Liverpool and Manchester. Further regional strikes are planned for later this year, culminating in a national walk-out in the autumn.
• See SecEd editor Pete Henshaw's editorial on the strike.