Speaking at the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Conference in Brighton today (Tues 18th Oct), Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, will announce that, following a national consultation with the union’s members, school leaders across Wales and England, NAHT will be proceeding with a formal ballot on industrial action.
NAHT Cymru represents school leaders in the majority of primary schools in Wales. 84% of its membership responded to a survey between Wednesday 21st and Friday 14th October.
91% 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. 64% of respondents indicated they wanted to be balloted on taking strike action.
Mr Whiteman will say: “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.
“Based on current projections, even with this year’s pay award by the Welsh government, school leaders’ salaries will have lost approximately 22% of their value since 2010. 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.
“Cuts to LA budgets, 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.
“I have today written to the employers in Wales to inform them that we are now officially in dispute, and have explained our situation to the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles. I can only urge the employers and the Welsh Government to listen and take urgent action.
“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 employers and the Welsh 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.”
Laura Doel, director of NAHT Cymru, said: “The continuous education reform agenda, issues with recruitment and retention, and the repeated underfunding of schools has left our education system at breakpoint. Our leaders are being asked to do more with less, schools are losing staff, and those left are struggling to keep up with the demands of the job.
“We need to invest in education where it offers the most value for our learners, and that’s in the workforce. It is only with highly skilled, quality teachers and teaching assistants in our classrooms, and strong leaders in our schools, that we can deliver for our children.”
Today (Tuesday 18th October) also sees action short of strike commence for school leaders in Northern Ireland, after 93% of NAHT(NI) members voted in favour in a formal consultative ballot.
First published 18 October 2022