Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

Rishi Sunak faces down teaching unions’ wage demands

A defiant Prime Minister insists teachers have been offered a “reasonable and fair settlement” as unions continue a wave of strikes. Rishi Sunak faced down unions’ demands for inflation-busting pay rises ­and said the Government’s offer ­represents an eight percent increase for most staff.

Schools are set to shut for two days later this month and in May during the long-running dispute. There have been six strike days in 2023.

Walkouts are planned over the summer term and into autumn after National Education Union members voted for further action.

Unions want above-inflation pay rises but say the extra money should not come from schools’ existing budgets. The Government had offered teachers a one-off £1,000 this year and a 4.3 percent rise next year, with starting salaries rising to £30,000 from September.

Ministers claimed schools could afford to fund most of the rise with money promised in the Autumn Statement. Additional cash would provide the rest and the £1,000. But four unions rejected the offer.

The NEU, the largest union, said it was “insulting”, not fully funded and meant a real-terms cut for teachers.

Mr Sunak said: “We have worked really hard to come to what I thought was a reasonable and fair settlement on pay.

“It represented about an eight percent increase for most teachers – around a 13 percent increase for new teachers, taking their starting salary up to £30,000 over the next year.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said she would be willing to meet NEU general secretary leader Mary Bousted to help end the strikes.

Meanwhile, Mrs Keegan has backed Ofsted’s one-word school assessments amid demands for the system to be abolished. Pres­sure is mounting on the watchdog after head Ruth Perry killed herself after a report downgraded her school to the lowest level.

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