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NAHT opens strike ballot after school leaders reject government’s offer

School leaders’ union NAHT has today opened its strike ballot after members rejected the government’s most recent offer on pay and working conditions.

Ballot papers are this week being sent to the homes of NAHT members asking one simple question: ‘Are you prepared to take part in industrial action consisting of a strike’?

The union’s ballot is open until 31 July, with education unions having agreed to coordinate strike action in the autumn term if it is supported by their members and the dispute cannot be resolved. Members have to vote by post by law.

The ballot is being held over four issues: pay and funding; recruitment and retention; workload and wellbeing; and inspection - specifically the impact this has on school leaders’ mental health and wellbeing.

In April, 90% of NAHT members taking part in a consultative ballot voted to reject the government’s offer. 92% said they did not have headroom in their budget to even afford the proposal of a below-inflation pay award for education staff which included a one-off £1,000 payment for 2022/23, and a partially funded 4.5% pay uplift for 2023/24.

Members were also asked if they would be prepared to vote for and take industrial action and 78% said they would be.

NAHT general secretary, Paul Whiteman, said: “After our members overwhelmingly rejected the previous inadequate offer, which was not properly funded, we appealed to the government to get back round the table.

“So far, we have had no further meaningful talks, and instead the government has dropped its offer of a £1,000 cost of living payment as an apparent punishment for not accepting its deal.

“We have been left with no other choice but to seek this mandate for industrial action.

“Nobody working in education wants to have to go on strike. But it seems this is the only way to open the government’s eyes to the mess our education system is in, and the recruitment and retention crisis fuelled by years of real-terms pay and funding cuts, unsustainable workload and high-stakes inspections which harm staff wellbeing.”

NAHT’s membership endorsed a vote by its National Executive Committee to ballot for strike action at the union’s annual conference.

First published 15 May 2023