Education & Family

Heads await results of strike ballot over pensions

classroom
Image caption The strike action is likely to cause disruption for thousands of families

Head teachers in England and Wales are waiting to see if they will go on strike on 30 November, alongside other public sector workers, over pensions.

A ballot for industrial action by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) closed at midday on Wednesday.

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby predicts members will vote in favour of action for the first time in the union's 114-year history.

The government said strike action would cause unnecessary disruption.

The results of the ballot are expected to be released later on Wednesday afternoon.

If head teachers vote in favour of the strike, their action is likely to close schools, causing disruption to learning for thousands of pupils.

Working parents will also be inconvenienced as they make arrangements for childcare on that Wednesday.

'Make a stand'

The teaching profession says planned government changes to the teachers' pension scheme (TPS) will mean teachers working longer, paying more and receiving less when they retire.

Mr Hobby said were many gaps in the changes, which left about half NAHT members exposed to a large pay cut.

"Even those heads who may be less affected personally by changes to the pension scheme at this stage in their careers feel they have a duty to make a stand for the next generation of their profession.

"We need to focus on the huge impact of a move away from final salary for school leaders (at a time of heavy retirements and unfilled vacancies), we need to think about what is a reasonable age for someone to remain in the classroom and we need to address the impact of higher contributions on people starting out in their career."

The teachers' pension scheme was affordable and reasonable and a decent reward, he added.

Mr Hobby said it was not too late to stop any action going ahead: "It is late in the day, but not too late for both sides to make real headway in this dispute.

"School leaders are not naturally militant and only consider taking action when their legitimate concerns appear ignored."

The Department for Education said: "We brought forward an improved pension offer last week, which is a fair and affordable deal - it includes a more generous accrual rate and protection for those close to retirement from long-term reforms.

"Serious discussions are continuing about what reforms would be right for the teaching profession.

"Strikes benefit no-one - they damage pupils' education, disrupt and inconvenience parents, and risk reducing the professional reputation of teachers in the public's eyes."

UK-wide disruption

The action on Wednesday, 30 November will cause disruption at schools across the UK, not just in England and Wales.

While the TPS is available to teachers in England and Wales, it is likely that teachers in Northern Ireland and Scotland will face similar changes to their pension schemes.

This led the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) to ballot its members in Northern Ireland and Scotland for strike action - members there have voted to join their English and Welsh colleagues in a programme of industrial action.

The NASUWT is now balloting more than 230,000 members across the UK for strike action. The results will be known on 18 November.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT), which only represents teachers in England and Wales, has voted for continuing action over pensions.

The other head teachers' union, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said it would move to a ballot if it felt negotiations had failed or were not progressing satisfactorily.

ASCL would not have time to ballot members in time for strike action on 30 November.

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