UK education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has said that teachers going on strike would be ‘unforgivable’ and ‘irresponsible’ in the wake of the disruption caused to children’s learning due to the pandemic, according to a report.
His comments came after the National Education Union (NEU) said it would consult its members in the autumn to back industrial action if the government does not respond to its concerns over pay in the next few months, the Sky News reported.
“Young people have suffered more disruption than any generation that’s gone before them and to compound that now, as recovery is in full swing and families are thinking about their next big step following school or college, would be unforgivable and unfair,” Zahawi wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
Earlier, the union has criticised the government’s proposal of a 3 per cent pay increase for most teachers in England. According to it the hike means a pay cut due to inflation figures of 9.1 per cent and 11.7 per cent for RPI.
“Teachers are saying to us that they are finding it difficult to get to the end of the month, their heating bills and their fuel bills means that they are struggling to survive,” Niamh Sweeney, deputy general secretary, NEU was quoted as saying by the Sky News.
In a letter to the minister, the union has called for a fully funded inflation-plus pay increase for all teachers, as well as measures to reduce workloads.
According to the report, teacher pay has fallen by a fifth in real terms since 2010, even before this year’s increases in inflation, but their workload remains at ‘unsustainable’ levels.
“Average teacher salaries are at their lowest level compared to average earnings across the economy in over 40 years. Teachers and school leaders often tell us that workload is their predominant concern. But right now, our members are telling us pay is a big issue too. The combination of unsustainable hours, the work intensity during those hours and ever-falling pay levels are damaging our schools and the young people we are educating,” the letter said.
The NEU also pointed out that applications for teacher training have fallen by 24 per cent compared with last year, and one in eight newly qualified teachers left the job in their first year of teaching.
“You must respond to the new economic reality of double-digit inflation and the threat this poses to teacher living standards,” the letter added.