Unions say teachers will strike again this summer

A strike by NUT at the Guildhall in Northampton a few years ago
A strike by NUT at the Guildhall in Northampton a few years ago

Teachers are to begin a series of strikes from this summer in a continuing row over pay, pensions and workload, it was announced today.

Schools across the country, including Northamptonshire, are likely to be affected by the rolling programme of walkouts, which will begin in the North West on June 27.

More are set to follow in the autumn term, with the stage set for a national strike before Christmas.

The move, announced by England’s two biggest teaching unions, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT, is an escalation of a continuing dispute with the Government.

Both unions have already been taking part in industrial action, short of strikes, but NUT general secretary Christine Blower insisted that they have had no engagement by Education Secretary Michael Gove over the dispute.

She said: “We have decided we must make an announcement that we will move to strike action in a bid to get the Secretary of State to listen seriously, and to seek to achieve a resolution in this dispute.”

She said that strikes will begin on June 27 in schools in local authorities in the North West.

“There will be further action in the autumn and a national strike to be called before Christmas.”

There will also be a series of rallies, in England and Wales, Ms Blower said.

The unions have three key issues covering the teachers’ pension scheme, the Government’s decision to move to performance-related pay, and are also calling for “genuine engagement” by Mr Gove over their dispute.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “We have three very reasonable demands that we are making to the Secretary of State that can stop disruption to schools from June onwards.”

She added: “The time has come for the Secretary of State to listen to the concerns of teachers and school leaders.

“He has recklessly pursued a relentless attack on the profession and teachers’ patience has been exhausted.”

The last time the unions took part in a national walkout was in November as part of a wider public sector strike over pensions.

A DfE spokesman said: “We are very disappointed that the NUT and NASUWT have decided to take strike action, which less than a quarter of teachers actually voted for.

“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 across the country.

“We think giving schools the freedom to reward good performance is much fairer than current arrangements which see the vast majority of teachers automatically getting a pay rise each year.

“We have met frequently with the NUT and NASUWT to discuss their concerns and will continue to do so.”

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: “We urge all parties to continue negotiations to avoid strikes.

“The Education Secretary needs to end his hostile rhetoric about teachers. His decision to scrap Labour’s Social Partnership ended a useful vehicle to resolve disputes without industrial action.

“Strikes are a sign of failure and all sides involved must make every effort to avert them. Like parents and pupils, we do not want to see schools disrupted. This is an industrial dispute that needs to be resolved by government and unions.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said: “ATL absolutely shares with the NUT and NASUWT their concerns about teacher morale, the break up of national pay structures and the government attacks on pensions.

“Where ATL part ways is that we survey our members regularly to gather their opinions, and while we agree that teachers’ morale is very low and this coalition government is no friend to teachers, when it comes to pay and terms and conditions we are not seeing any evidence that our members are willing to engage in industrial action.”

Strikes supported by teachers at Northamptonshire schools in recent years have caused problems for many parents having to find alternative care for their children or having to take time off work.