On July 5, members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) will walk out in what will be the union’s first national day of action since 2014.
Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of action in order to address school funding and to resume negotiations on teacher contracts.
In the NUT’s ballot, 91.7 per cent voted in favour of strike action, with a 24.5 per cent turnout.
It will be the latest in a series of strikes that the union has called to tackle issues that have remained similar for many years.
But in a letter written to Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, on June 28, the NUT highlighted further reasons for striking, stating that the note was a “last appeal” before action was taken.
With strike action set to affect thousands of children across the UK, what reasons have teachers given for the decision?
In July 2014, NUT members took part in a day of action alongside members of UNISON, UNITE, GMB, PCS and the FBU.
At the time, the NUT cited pay, pensions and workload as three key reasons for walking out. According to the union, pension contribution increases and pay restraint had meant that teachers had seen a 15 per cent fall in the value of their take home pay.
Performance related pay (PRP) was also a key issue, along with the oft-quoted 60 hour working week.
Workload is still an issue, but the NUT focused on funding in their letter to the Education Secretary. Writing in June, Kevin Courtney, the acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, warned that the funding situation in schools could get “progressively worse”.
He cited forecasts from the Institute for Fiscal Studies which predicted an 8 per cent cut in funding in real terms over the next few years.
The NUT argues that these funding cuts could have “negative implications” including; an increase in class sizes, fewer subject choices for children, and cuts in support and teaching staff. All of which could affect standards overall.
Yes, the “de-regulation of teacher terms and conditions”. In plain English? Following the Government’s push to turn all schools into academies, decisions about pay and working conditions are increasingly being made at school level, rather than following a national standard.
The NUT’s concern is that there is little evidence that making decisions, for example, on sick pay and maternity leave at school level, leads to higher standards – in fact, the union suggests that this responsibility could distract school leaders from the important business of educating children.
But pay is still an issue?
Pay is definitely still a concern for unions. At the most basic level, the NUT have said that unless pay and working conditions improve, it is unlikely that the teacher recruitment and retention “crisis” will get better at any point soon.
In short, what are the NUT asking for?
In his letter to Nicky Morgan, Mr Courtney outlined three requests to avoid the strike action.
- Fund schools sufficiently to cover the increased staff costs you have imposed on them.
- Tell academies they must at least have regard to the national terms and conditions.
- Promise meaningful talks to look for a full resolution of the dispute.