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New Education Secretary told to improve teacher pay and working conditions or face national strike action

NEW Tory Education Secretary Michelle Donelan must urgently improve teacher pay and working conditions or face national strike action, teaching unions warned today.

The former minister for further and higher education was promoted on Tuesday evening as Prime Minister Boris Johnson scrambled to hold his government together following a series of high-profile resignations.

The Chippenham MP was given the top job after her predecessor, Nadhim Zahawi, replaced Rishi Sunak as Chancellor, as disgruntled Tory MPs attempted to force the scandal-hit PM out of Downing Street.

National Education Union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney welcomed Ms Donelan into the role but stressed the fact that she was the third education secretary in as many years “does nothing to imbue confidence.  

“School funding has been depressed for years, child poverty, class sizes and teacher stress remain sky high and pay has been cut by a fifth in real terms since 2010.

“The causes of these problems are not mysterious – they are the consequence of government policy.”

Mr Courtney, who, along with the NASUWT union has warned of strike ballots this autumn, urged the Education Secretary to press Mr Zahawi, now in charge of the nation’s finances, to “go much further on teacher pay.”

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach slammed the new Chancellor for promising today that a planned below-inflation wage boost for teachers would go ahead.

A 9 per cent deal for early career teachers and a 5 per cent rise for more experienced staff — both well below the current retail prices index inflation rate of 11.7 per cent — would be “extremely disappointing,” he argued. 

The “constant chopping and changing of education secretaries does not provide the stable leadership” the sector needs, Geoff Barton from the Association of School and College Leaders said.

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