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Vote yes in Wales

Why teachers in state-funded schools in Wales are being balloted and the rationale for the NEU executive committee to recommend they vote YES.

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Why English members should Vote YES

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Last year, in your hundreds of thousands, you stood up for education.

Our Pay Up! strike action secured a funded 5 per cent consolidated increase in teachers’ pay and an extra 1.5% non-consolidated lump sum payment and key concessions on workload. This was on top of an award of 6.5% consolidated increase for 2022.

But those gains have not stopped the crisis in our schools.

Education staff are still leaving the profession in droves. And there aren’t enough coming in to replace them.

The Welsh Government missed its secondary ITE allocation target in 2021/22 for the eighth consecutive year. Since 2016/17, secondary ITE qualifiers amounts to only 53% of the allocation target.

Desperate secondary school staff shortages mean more than 2,600 extra specialist teachers are needed to teach our children. In 2021/22 only 255 trainees were enrolled to teach a priority subject, which is 37% less than those enrolled in 2020/21. Those training to teach in Welsh is also a concern as only 60 trainees were enrolled to teach a priority subject in 2021/22 (none for Biology and Chemistry) when compared to 100 enrolments to teach a priority subject in 2020/21.

On school funding, the news is no better. There is no extra money to fix the shocking state of our school estate, where hundreds of buildings are out of action due to crumbly concrete, where water pours in through leaky ceilings, where mould and peeling paintwork are regular features of the classroom wall.

In short, education needs us to step up again.

We always knew that gains made through our action were only a stepping stone on the road to the full restoration of pay lost since 2010.

Following its December Budget Statement and the implications for the Independent Wales Pay Review Body (IWPRB), the Welsh Government is clearly gearing up for a below inflation teacher pay award for 2024. Even a paltry award would likely not be properly funded in most schools, purring education provision and school workforce jobs at risk.

This will not fix the problems with recruitment or fill all the vacancies our schools have.

A below inflation per cent increase would mean yet another real terms pay cut against inflation and a further erosion of living standards.

Last year, your collective action forced the Welsh Government to put more money on the table.

And towards the end of last year, your elected representatives on the National Education Union (NEU) executive met to outline a programme of action that responds to this failure of both Westminster Government and Welsh Government to stem the crisis in our schools.

As little more than a meagre pay rise is on the cards, unless the Welsh Government changes tack, we will be opening an indicative ballot for teacher members on Saturday 2 March – asking you to back a further round of strike action to show the Welsh Government that we are once again prepared to stand up to save our schools.

And as soon as we know the National Joint Council (NJC) employers’ 2024-25 pay offer – expected in late February – your national executive has also agreed to consult our support staff members over their willingness to strike with NJC unions to support their pay claim and alongside teacher colleagues to address funding and job concerns.

We will also encourage members and school groups to press local politicians and the IWPRB itself, ahead of this year’s General Election.

If members vote in significant numbers, a decision will be made at national conference in April to progress to a formal industrial action ballot.

The action you took last year rocked the Westminster Government. It is so fearful of the support you received, from your colleagues and the general public, that it is trying to take away our right to strike – a right that is recognised in international human rights legislation.

Rather than dealing with the causes of strikes and the lack of ‘minimum service’ you and your pupils have to deal with day in, day out, the Westminster Government thinks the answer is to simply limit our ability to take action to stand up for our schools and our students. Although the current Welsh Government has said “it will not participate in this fundamentally flawed exercise” the attempt to curtail your democratic freedom remains.

Since the last General Election, your faith and dedication has won more funding for schools and a significant uplift in your pay.

As 2024 dawns, we need you to stand firm again, to demand fair pay, decent school funding and fight for the education system our pupils deserve.

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