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England: all four main unions vote to accept pay offer
2022 and 2023 saw a series of school teacher strikes take place across the UK. Unions were calling for better pay and working conditions.
By 31 July 2023, all of the four main school teaching and leadership unions in England announced that their memberships had decided to accept a 6.5% cash-terms increase (with slightly more for some new teachers) – the Government’s pay offer for the 2023/24 academic year, as recommended by the statutory pay body for teachers, the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB).
- The National Education Union (NEU) said 86% of respondents to its online teachers’ consultation had voted to “accept the pay and funding offer” on a turnout of 60%, and “end the current phase of industrial action”
- The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said 85% of respondents to its survey had voted to accept the offer, even though in a separate ballot, it had secured a mandate for strike action.
- NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union also announced that around 78% of respondents to its survey voted to accept, but concerns remained about working hours and workload. As such, it said “the NASUWT will be taking action, up to and including industrial action, to tackle excessive workload and working hours and to protect the health, safety and welfare of our members at work”
Earlier in July, the fourth main union, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said it was halting its ongoing ballot for strike action after 87% of respondents to its consultation voted to accept the pay offer.
Earlier NEU strike action in 2023, and other unions’ ballots
The July 2023 pay offer follows long-running strike action by NEU teaching members in England. There was a series of regional and national strike days between February and July 2023. Members of the other three teaching and leadership unions did not strike, but had been formally balloting their memberships on strike action in Autumn 2023.
What is the pay deal worth?
The Government says the offer “means that teachers and leaders in maintained schools will receive an increase of at least 6.5%” (in cash terms) in the 2023/24 academic year beginning in September. Individual schools and academy trusts still have some pay flexibility and discretion over pay and pay progression.
Earlier, in the 2022/23 academic year, the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) uplifted the top and bottom of the main teaching pay bands by around 5% in cash terms. There were higher increases of up to 9% for new teachers.
6.5% pay offer doesn’t apply to teaching assistants
The pay offer for the 2023/24 academic year does not cover non-teaching staff, such as teaching assistants and school administrators. Their pay is not subject to statutory pay review body recommendations; many support staff are paid on local-authority-aligned terms and conditions, but not all.
What additional funding is the DfE offering for teacher pay?
Schools are generally in control of their own delegated budgets, but staffing costs generally represent the bulk of their expenditure. Teacher pay rises can therefore have significant implications for schools’ financial health.
The DfE will make additional payments of around £1.4bn to schools to partially cover a 6.5% average pay award, over financial years 2023-24 and 2024-25. This is being paid via the Teachers’ Pay Additional Grant. There is also going to be a hardship fund of up to £40 million for schools facing the biggest financial challenges.
This additional funding comes on top of cash increases already announced at the 2022 Autumn Statement. The DfE had already assessed that schools had enough headroom to cope with pay rises of around 4% (in cash terms), and says it is funding the full cost of the pay award “above 3.5%”. Consequently, it argues “the additional funding to support this pay award is higher and more generous than what our calculations tell us schools can afford”. It says the funding comes from underspends within existing DfE budgets.
How much are teachers paid?
On 11 January 2023, the Institute for Fiscal Studies published analysis of teacher pay in England. It said that while the 2022 to 23 award represented “some of the biggest cash-terms increases in teacher salaries for over 15 years”, it would nevertheless result in real-terms salary cuts:
[with] CPI inflation currently expected to be about 10% in 2022–23, these increases will still represent real-terms salary cuts […] salaries for teachers on most pay grades are expected to fall by 5% in real-terms in 2022–23. Even with larger increases, new and inexperienced teachers are likely to see real-terms salary cuts of 1-3% in 2022–23.
These cuts come on top of a long period of real-terms reductions in teacher salaries dating back to 2010 […] salaries for more experienced and senior teachers have fallen by 13% in real-terms since 2010. Teachers in the middle of the salary scale have experienced cuts of 9-10% since 2010. Starting salaries have fallen by 5% in real-terms.
In May 2023, the IFS updated its analysis, taking into account an earlier March 2023 Government pay offer. At that point, it said it expected total school funding to grow by “slightly more” than estimated costs in 2023-24, even accounting for the higher teacher pay offer – which at that point stood at 4.5%. It said the overall picture, however, was “tight”, and that its figures reflected national averages. Some schools would see lower-than-average funding increases, and greater cost increases than others.
Teachers’ strikes in Scotland
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) ran a rolling programme of strikes in early 2023. It held national strike days on 28 February and 1 March 2023, as did the NASUWT in Scotland.
On 3 March 2023, Scottish employers’ organisation, COSLA, made a revised pay offer, and the EIS suspended its planned strike action, saying it would consult members and recommend acceptance of the offer. The offer covers 28 months and is in three parts. COSLA says:
For the vast majority of the SNCT [Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers] workforce, the 28-month undifferentiated offer equates to a 14.6% cumulative increase in salary at the point when the third increase is applied. For those already earning over £80,000 or above, the […] offer has a monetary value of £11,200.
On 10 March 2023, the EIS announced that its members had voted to accept the pay offer, as did members of the Association of Head Teachers and Deputies Scotland (AHDS). NASUWT members also narrowly voted to accept the offer.
On 24 February 2023, the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) announced it would also defer its strike action planned for 28 February and 1 March 2023, “in light of the members response in [a] survey […and in the] expectation of an improved pay offer in the coming days”. On 9 March the SSTA said its members had voted to accept the most recent pay offer and brought the dispute to an end.
Strikes in Wales
Members of the NEU in Wales were called to strike on Thursday 2 March 2023. This was a resumption of strike action. They were also being called to participate in the strikes on 15 and 16 March 2023. However, on 10 March the NEU announced that, following a revised pay offer which would be put to members, those strikes would be called off. NEU Cymru teaching members subsequently voted to accept the teacher pay offer.
NAHT Cymru’s ballot achieved the required turnout for members in Wales, with a large majority voting in favour of strike action, and the union called on members there to take action short of a strike. On 10 March 2023, NAHT Cymru announced it was putting the revised pay offer to members, who subsequently voted to reject it. NAHT Cymru said it would write to the Welsh Government and employers seeking a resolution, and urged members to continue indefinitely with action short of a strike. It recently conducted a re-ballot and announced on 28 June 2023 that members voted to continue industrial action, and that it had met the turnout threshold.
Welsh union, Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru (UCAC) balloted its members on strike action. Its ballot didn’t meet the turnout threshold, with 45% of members returning ballots. Of those that did return ballot papers, 89% voted for strike action.
The NASUWT ballot for Wales fell just short of the turnout threshold, for state-funded settings.
Teachers’ strikes in Northern Ireland
Members of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) took strike action on the morning of 21 February 2023, as did members of NASUWT in Northern Ireland, members of the Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU), and the NEU.
Members of these unions took strike action again on Wednesday 26 April 2023, and for the first time they were joined by members of the NAHT.
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