Today, at the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Conference in Brighton, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, announced that NAHT will be proceeding with a formal ballot on industrial action.
This was following a national consultation with the union’s members – school leaders across England and Wales.
NAHT represents school leaders in the majority of primary schools in England.
64% of its membership responded to a survey between 27th September and 14th October.
84% of respondents indicated they wanted to be balloted on taking action short of strike, should a suitable agreement on pay and funding not be reached.
55% of respondents indicated they wanted to be balloted on taking strike action.
Paul Whiteman said: “Over the course of the last few months, I have travelled the country hearing from our members directly. I have never heard more anger and despair.
“School leaders across the country are telling me that they cannot continue to run their schools in the current circumstances.
“The neglect of pay in education and the funding to support it is now eroding the quality of education that our members can provide.
“Schools are caught is a vicious spiral. Insufficient pay has contributed to a recruitment and retention crisis.
“And the failure to fund even the insufficient award this year means that heart-breaking cuts to services will have to be made.
“Less people and fewer services will lead to an erosion of educational quality.”
Mr Whiteman further explained that based on current projects, school leaders’ salaries will have lost 24% of their value since 2010. This is even with this year’s pay award.
He said: “They are feeling demoralised and undervalued.
“Worse than that, they are finding themselves unable to provide the level of education and support for pupils that they know is needed, due to the massive cost pressures that keep piling on to school budgets and the government’s continued under-funding of education.”
He added: “Education funding is due to be 3% less in real terms in 2024/2025 than it was in 2010.
“Spiralling energy bills, inflationary costs, and lack of funding for teachers’ pay this year means thousands of schools are predicting going into deficit.
“Consequently, school leaders are being forced to make cuts that ultimately cannot help but negatively impact on the education and wellbeing of children.
“This is not a situation the dedicated and caring professionals I represent can put up with any longer.
“Their primary concern is the education and wellbeing of the pupils and staff in their schools.
“They are telling me very clearly that they feel unable to continue to operate under these circumstances.
“It is almost unprecedented for the relentlessly reasonable professionals I know our members to be, but we have no choice but to move to a formal industrial action ballot to establish what next steps they would like to take.
“No school leader would ever take any industrial action lightly, but they are telling me they feel compelled to fight for the futures of the children and young people in their care.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the future of education is on the line.”
Mr Whiteman has declared tear he written to the Secretary of State for Education , Kit Malthouse, today, to inform him that they are now officially in dispute.
He said he can only urge Mr Malthouse and the government to take urgent action.
Mr Whitehouse finished saying: “School leaders will do everything in their power to avoid disruption to pupils.
“But they are clear that to do nothing will only ensure that nothing changes.
“My appeal to the government is to engage with us and find a solution that serves the needs of the profession and in turn the ambition of young people.”
School leaders in Wales have also indicated their concern in a surgery held by the concurrently NAHT Cymru.
84% of NAHT Cymru members responded.
91% said they wanted to be balloted on action short of strike, and 64% said they wanted to be balloted on industrial action including strike, if an agreement cannot be found.