The education minister said a teacher strike would be “unforgivable” and “irresponsible” in the wake of the disruption that COVID-19 has caused to children’s education.
Nadim Zahawi’s comments came after the National Education Union (NEU) said it would consult with its members in the fall, “strongly encouraging” them to support the strike if the government did not respond to its concerns about high workloads and pay in the next few months. .
The minister wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “Young people have experienced more turmoil than any generation before them and doubly so now, as recovery is in full swing and families contemplate their next big step after school or college, it will be unforgivable and unjust.”
The union has criticized the government’s proposal to raise salaries for most teachers in England by 3%, which it said would mean a “huge” wage cut based on Wednesday’s inflation figures of 9.1% and 11.7% for the RPI.
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The university’s deputy general secretary Niamh Sweeney told Sky News The Take with Sophy Ridge that a teachers’ strike was “more bearable than it has been in my 20 years in the profession”.
“Teachers tell us they are having a hard time getting to the end of the month, and their heating and fuel bills mean they are struggling to survive.”
In a letter to Al-Zahawi, the union called for full funding for inflation as well as an increase in wages for all teachers, as well as measures to reduce workloads.
Teachers’ wages have fallen by a fifth in real terms since 2010, even before this year’s increase in inflation, while their workload has remained at “unsustainable” levels.
The letter reads: “Besides declining teacher salaries in real terms versus inflation, it has also fallen in relative terms versus earnings.
“Average teacher salaries are at their lowest compared to average incomes across the economy in more than 40 years.
“Teachers and school leaders often tell us that the workload is their biggest concern.
“But right now, our members tell us that payment is also a big issue.
“The combination of unsustainable working hours, the intensity of work during those hours, and persistently low wage levels is detrimental to our schools and the young people we teach.
“Teachers look at their hours and wages and calculate hourly wages, which are alarmingly low.
“The latest teacher training figures are very worrying; applications are down 24% compared to last year.
One in eight newly qualified teachers left the job in their first year of teaching.
“Often these young people have earned a degree, and then completed a postgraduate qualification.
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“It is a great loss to the profession, but more importantly to the disciples of the nation who depend on their teachers for their education and care.
“It must respond to the new economic reality of double-digit inflation and the threat this poses to the teacher’s standards of living.”
The union said it “will not stand idly by while managing both education and teachers on the ground.”