Strike Ballot Pay Up24 – Myths and misconceptions 

 I wanted to share some myths and misconceptions surrounding the ballot and strike action with you to hopefully provide some clarity and guidance. 

M&M 1 – If I vote ‘Yes’ in this ballot, I am committing to striking.

  • This is a preliminary ballot.
  • This ballot requires a turnout of 60% of members, with 90% of that 60% need to vote yes in order for us to reach the next round of balloting. 
  • This ballot is NOT going to determine whether or not we strike, it is going to determine whether or not we ballot formally to strike. 

M&M 2 – My exam classes are going to suffer as a result of strike action.

  • Timescales mean that it is highly unlikely that the current academic year will be impacted by industrial action. 
  • The preliminary ballot will be open for 3 weeks from the 2nd March. The formal postal ballot (if the preliminary ballot is successful) will then be open for 10 weeks. 
  • This means that any strike action this side of the summer holidays is unlikely or, if it does occur, will take place once external examinations are underway/finished.
  • Government guidance (Minimum Service Levels Act, 2023) dictates that exam classes should be protected and prioritised by senior leadership teams in the event of strike action.

M&M 3 – We got a good deal last time, let’s not push it.

  • In her remit letter to the School Teachers’ Pay Review Body (STRB) – the independent body which makes recommendations on teacher pay – it is clear that Education Secretary Gillian Keegan is gearing up for a 1-2% teacher pay award next year. Daniel Kebede wrote to her on 17th January and she has not responded: it is clear that she is unwilling to enter negotiations with the union at this stage.
  •  A 2% increase would mean yet another real terms pay cut against inflation.
  • Without extra funding, even a 2% increase would put education provision and jobs – especially support staff – at risk of further cuts in most schools.
  • Since 2010, the real value of teacher pay against RPI inflation has been cut by some 25% in state-funded schools in England. 
  • The relative value of teacher pay in the wider economy has also been cut, with average teacher pay increases between 2010-11 and 2022-23 of just 16% compared to a 39% increase for average earnings as a whole.

M&M 4 – I am paid fairly for my work and I’m not unhappy, so I don’t need to strike.

  • The focus this time is on the need to address the wider funding crisis that is crippling the education provision, damaging the futures of the pupils we educate and causing such damage to our conditions of service.
  • The Government missed its already reduced training targets again last summer – in secondary by a massive 50 per cent. It missed its targets in 15 out of 18 subjects.
  • The number of job vacancies recorded in England’s schools is the highest since 2004. 
  • Nationally, we are short of 4,000 maths teachers, almost 4,000 languages teachers and over 2,500 teachers in of science, English, design and technology, and computing/ICT. 
  • At JAC, we are short of teachers across multiple subjects; people are teaching out of specialism and vacancies advertised multiple times have not been filled. We have struggled to recruit Maternity Cover teachers, Geography teachers are teaching Art, and almost every class in Key Stage 3 (16 out of 18) has an unqualified Maths teacher for at least one hour per week*: the national recruitment and retention crisis is impacting our pupils’ life chances and is increasing the workload of our staff. 

The preliminary ballot only applies to teaching members of the union – support staff, we appreciate your solidarity!

We understand that the decision to strike is not an easy one to make. I urge you to vote yes in the preliminary ballot nonetheless to show Gillian Keegan that we demand better. Nobody wants to strike, but I hope you recognise that we need to.