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NAHT speech at NEU strike rally

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, today addressed striking school workers at an NEU rally in London, Westminster.

Speaking as NAHT members in Wales begin action short of strike (ASOS) today – joining members in Northern Ireland who have been taking action since October 2022 – Mr Whiteman said that it is the government’s ‘deliberate’ underinvestment in education over the last decade that is to blame for the current dispute.


Full speech:

I am pleased to be here today to remind my education colleagues that your fight is our fight.

Today NAHT members continue to take action in Northern Ireland, and we will begin action in Wales.

In England we offer our support to those colleges taking action today and I can confirm that the NAHT will ballot members in England again if no progress is made.

Colleagues our cause is just, and our cause is right.

The government needs to be honest with the public.

This dispute is not the product of extraordinary economic conditions.

This dispute is the result of more than a decade of the deliberate erosion of investment in education.

More than a decade of the deliberate erosion of leader, teacher and support staff pay.

Compounded by world events yes but caused by domestic decisions with entirely predictable consequences.

We warned of the recruitment and retention crisis more than five years ago and every year since.

The government has failed to respond to those warnings, and it is the government alone who are responsible for the decline of teaching careers.

Not enough teaching assistants, leaving the profession to work in supermarkets.

Not enough teachers, graduates deciding not to enter the profession or leaving within a couple of years.

And not enough leaders, too few teachers will step up and too many leaders going because of falling pay and crushing workload.

Unable to win the argument the government resorts to misdirection and demonising the very workers that saved the country during the pandemic.

For every economist they quote to warn of a pay/inflation spiral I’ll show you one who says public sector pay has nothing to do with it.

For every demonising insult made we will set the record straight with the dignity that truth provides.

And when they legislate against us, we know they have abandoned any pretence of seeking negotiated solutions, the power of reasoned argument and evidence being against them.

I would simply remind government that we have some history here. The trade union movement, our movement, is born of struggle. Struggles won when the law has always been against us.

So, when you oppress working people, they push back.

When you oppress working people, they win.

My appeal to government is to end the meetings empty of offers, designed only to provide a veneer of negotiation. Instead enter into meaningful talks.

There is always a deal to be done.

Until then colleagues I say to you.

Stand firm and stand strong.

Our cause is just, and our cause is right.

When they say you are disturbing the education of children.

Stand firm and stand strong, this is about saving education of behalf of children.

When they say you will ruin the reputation of the profession.

Stand firm and stand strong. You have too much professional commitment to let them to paint a false picture.

And when they say be patient its not their fault, Its world events.

Stand firm and stand strong. You have been patient for a decade. Jam tomorrow does not pay todays rent!


Our cause is just

Ours cause is right

Thank you for listening.

First published 01 February 2023