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Jersey school leaders join teachers in strike action

Members of school leaders’ union NAHT have agreed to escalate their industrial action and join teachers in a day of strike action next week.

Schools on the island will be impacted, with most likely to close on Tuesday 12 September when NAHT members join their counterparts from the National Education Union (NEU) in walking out.

Striking teachers and leaders will take part in a rally at Royal Square during the day, where the States full assembly is meeting.

Three education unions (NAHT, NEU and NASUWT) voted to take industrial action in June, after which NEU members went on strike on July 5.

The new strike action comes after Jersey’s States Employment Board (SEB) repeatedly refused to budge from its proposed 7.9% pay rise, despite further talks with the unions.

School leaders on the island have seen their pay fall by more than 11% in real terms since 2012, while at the same time workload has increased, especially on the back of the pandemic.

NAHT’s decision to strike, which has been approved by the union’s National Executive Council, comes after members began action short of strike (ASOS) in early July. School leader members refused to engage with certain government requests, including responding to calls or emails outside core hours, discussing their industrial action, facilitating unsolicited school visits, and participating in non-statutory consultations, surveys, meetings, or data requests.

98% of participating NHAT members backed ASOS in an industrial action ballot in June, with 86% backing strike. Turnout was 68%.

Rob Kelsall, NAHT’s assistant general secretary, said: “We have exhausted all other avenues in an attempt to resolve this long-running dispute, with no tangible improvements being made to the pay offer despite hours of talks at the Jersey Advisory & Conciliation Service (JACS).

“Our members have been pushed to the brink and we believe the only way this can now be resolved before schools are forced to close on 12 September will be if the chief minister agrees to meet with us and tables an offer that is acceptable to teachers and leaders which reflects their unstinting dedication, commitment, and professionalism. After year on year pay cuts, our members have been left with no other choice but to take action.

“No head teacher, teacher or parent wants to see schools close, however, unless this matter is resolved then the damage to the education system will be even greater.”

Carl Howarth, president of NAHT Jersey, said: “Any form of industrial action is a last resort. We understand that any action we are taking may cause inconvenience and we apologise in advance for this. However, in the face of a government that is refusing to deal with the very real and legitimate concerns that we have, and following years of real terms pay cuts, we have no option and a civil responsibility to take action in order to protect the quality of education in our island."

Nick Childs, Senior Regional Officer, for NEU said: “It is disappointing that the SEB has come to the table with such a derisory pay offer. If the Government are serious about resolving this dispute and addressing the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, then they need to start valuing the Islands’ teachers and leaders and start to genuinely negotiate. If they do not do so, further escalation of this dispute is inevitable.”

First published 04 September 2023