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PAY strikes are set to disrupt thousands of schools after negotiations with Tory ministers collapsed today over “unacceptable” real-terms wage cuts, the National Education Union (NEU) has said.
Last-ditch talks between the union’s leaders and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan failed today to reach a settlement, with teachers launching the first of seven 24-hour walkouts in England and Wales tomorrow.
The intermittent strikes, which could hit more than 23,000 primaries and secondaries over the next two months, come after most NEU members backed industrial action over a pay dispute in ballots that closed earlier this month.
Despite years of falling take-home pay, the government offered most teachers just 5 per cent for 2022-23 — about half the rate of 40-year-high double-digit inflation.
Joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “Gillian Keegan has squandered an opportunity to avoid strike action on Wednesday.
“The government has been unwilling to seriously engage with the causes of strike action.
“Real-terms pay cuts and cuts in pay relativities are leading to a recruitment and retention crisis with which the Education Secretary so far seems incapable of getting a grip.
“Training targets are routinely missed, year on year. This is having consequences for learning, with disruption every day to children’s education.
“We can do better as a nation, for education, for our children, if we invest more.
“That is in the gift of this government. It should start with a fully funded, above-inflation pay rise for teachers.”
Mr Courtney, who has repeatedly warned that the underpaid and overstretched workforce is burnt out and suffering a growing teacher exodus, had urged Ms Keegan to “bring forward concrete proposals to end this dispute and avert strikes.”
And a source close to the Chichester MP claimed that she had planned to “continue to be open and collaborative in meetings with unions.”
Teaching walkouts continued in Scotland today, with members of the Educational Institute of Scotland downing tools in Aberdeenshire and the Borders.
The biggest education union north of the border, which launched strikes in the autumn alongside the NASUWT and SSTA, began 16 days of rolling industrial action earlier in January, with schools in two council areas being affected each school day.
The unions have rejected a claim from SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that an inflation-matching 10 per cent wage deal would be unaffordable and warned that walkouts would continue without action from Holyrood.
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