ASCL comment on latest talks with Gillian Keegan

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on talks today between education unions and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan over teacher recruitment and retention, pay erosion and industrial action.
While the tone of today’s talks signalled a greater sense of urgency on the part of the government, we have to report that once again there is no new offer to improve the inadequate pay settlement which has sparked the ongoing dispute. There has been discussion about addressing systemic issues which drive unsustainable workload pressures on education staff but nothing concrete in this direction either. Unless pay and conditions are improved the severe teacher shortages being experienced by many schools will worsen and so will the impact on the education of young people.

“We cannot go on like this. Unless there is tangible progress towards an improved offer the prospect of further strike action by NEU members is inevitable, and will lead to members of our union, and other education unions, also concluding that industrial action is the only option left. Our consultative ballot in the autumn was in favour of moving to a formal ballot on industrial action but we have held off from that step and tried to resolve the dispute through negotiation. However, there is a limit to how many times we can come out of a meeting with the Education Secretary without progress being made.

“Both Wales and Scotland are making offers in an effort to improve pay and avert further strikes. Those offers might not be perfect, and won’t satisfy everyone. But they are a great deal better than anything managed by the government in Westminster, which has put nothing on the table so far despite having far more resources at its disposal. We expect further talks to take place shortly and we hope that there will be a breakthrough.