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School leaders to strike for first time on Jersey

School leaders’ union NAHT will join teachers in a day of strike action across Jersey’s schools tomorrow, Tuesday 12 September, after it said that revised proposals aimed at resolving the dispute were too little too late. 

Late last week, the States Employment Board (SEB) agreed to backdate its previous 7.9% pay offer, which NAHT members had overwhelmingly rejected in a ballot, to January.

But NAHT said that was not enough and put its own proposals on the table on Friday designed to end the dispute.

Today, the Government tabled alternative proposals which NAHT said fell well short of resolving the dispute.

They were described by Rob Kelsall, NAHT’s assistant general secretary, as ‘simply tinkering around at the edges’.

NAHT will strike tomorrow alongside teaching counterparts from the National Education Union (NEU). Schools across the island will be impacted, with most likely to close.

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.

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%.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The fact that this will be the first time our members on the island have ever gone on strike demonstrates that this isn’t a decision they have taken lightly.

“However, they feel they have no other option left open to them to secure a breakthrough right now after hours of talks failed to secure any significant improvements to the pay offer.

“Unless something changes, the recruitment and retention crisis fuelled by the huge real-terms cut in pay over the last decade and unsustainable workload will only deepen.”

Rob Kelsall, NAHT’s assistant general secretary, said: “It’s really disappointing that the Jersey government hasn’t accepted our entirely reasonable proposals, but has instead brought forward alternatives which amount to simply tinkering around at the edges. It’s too little, too late.

“While we apologise for the disruption this strike will cause children and families, the long-term disruption and harm to children’s learning which will result if schools are left without the staff they need doesn’t bear thinking about.

“It’s precisely because school leaders are passionate about the future of education on Jersey that they are taking this action.

“We remain ready to resume negotiations aimed at securing a fair deal for our members.”

The strike action comes as NAHT and the NEU host a joint debate on the growing recruitment and retention crisis in schools at the TUC’s annual conference in Liverpool.

The fringe event, Resolving the Crisis in Education, takes place from 12.45-2pm tomorrow (TUESDAY 12 SEPTEMBER) and will discuss what needs to be done to tackle the crisis and deliver the best possible education for children.

First published 11 September 2023