School leaders in Wales to be re-balloted for industrial action
Headteachers and school leaders in Wales are to be re-balloted in a bid to secure a fresh mandate for industrial action, including potential strikes.
The development comes after members of the school leaders’ union, NAHT Cymru, voted against an offer from the Welsh government covering the academic years 2022/23 and 2023/24, in an ongoing dispute over pay, workload, and funding.
Although the Welsh government implemented a 3% pay uplift for the current academic year, concerns among NAHT members about the funding for this increase have proven valid in various areas of the country.
Discussions have taken place between NAHT, the Welsh government, and local government employers, but there has been little progress. Issues regarding funding for school budgets, pay awards, and workload reduction remain unresolved.
NAHT members have been engaged in action short of a strike since January, following a previous ballot where 95% of participants supported this option, while 75% also backed strike action.
As the current mandate expires in July, a new ballot will be conducted, presenting both options once again.
The forthcoming ballot will commence on Thursday, June 1, and run until Tuesday, June 27.
Laura Doel, director of NAHT Cymru, expressed concerns about the failure to materialise fully funded pay awards and the impact on school budgets.
She emphasised the need for acceptable proposals to be presented, underscoring the importance of the renewed mandate to pursue industrial action if necessary.
Paul Whiteman, NAHT’s general secretary, criticised the need for school leaders to make budget cuts to afford below-inflation pay offers. The strain on school leaders’ well-being, coupled with excessive workload and stretched budgets, contributes to a growing crisis in staff recruitment and retention, ultimately affecting the quality of education.
The previous offer from the government included a 3% payment for the current academic year, consisting of a 1.5% consolidated award and a further 1.5% unconsolidated lump sum.
Additionally, the offer proposed a 5% pay rise from September 2023, alongside an agreement on workload reduction.
NAHT Cymru’s action short of a strike will continue until the outcome of the new ballot is determined.
During this period, union members employed as headteachers, deputy headteachers, assistant headteachers, and middle leaders will undertake a series of actions, including abstaining from certain administrative tasks and limiting engagement with external bodies beyond statutory requirements.
Laura Anne Jones MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Education, expressed concern about the potential for further strike action, emphasising the impact on children’s learning.
She said: “After many months of stress for parents and disruption for our children, there seems to be further strike action on the horizon.
“The Labour Government desperately need to get around the table and sort this out as soon as possible, after so much schooling has already been missed during lockdowns, the amount of teaching days lost to strikes has had a significant negative impact on pupils’ learning. These children cannot afford for this to be dragged out any longer.
“Labour continue to let down our schools and children, With schools already forced to cut budgets – due to Labour underfunding education in real terms.”
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