Six Essex schools ballot for strikes

EXCLUSIVETEACHERS at six schools in Essex have held ballots for strike action in protest at a shake-up of pay scales.The Government is bringing in a new pay and management structure in schools, which the National Union of Teachers warns will lead to loss of money, pension and promotion prospects for thousands of teachers.

By Juliette Maxam

EXCLUSIVE

TEACHERS at six schools in Essex have held ballots for strike action in protest at a shake-up of pay scales.

The Government is bringing in a new pay and management structure in schools, which the National Union of Teachers warns will lead to loss of money, pension and promotion prospects for thousands of teachers.

Under the new system, senior teachers fear they will have to take on more work and responsibilities to get their current pay.

Junior teachers could be expected to take on additional duties, such as responsibility for a curriculum subject, with no increase in money, whereas under the current system they would move up a point on the pay scale.

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Headteachers were told in the summer to review existing staff structures, draw up new proposals and fully consult with teachers by December 31. The new system has to be in place by 2008.

Now it has emerged that many teachers are not happy with the proposed new structures in their schools.

Six schools in Essex - four primary and two secondary - have held indicative ballots among NUT members to find out if teachers would be prepared to vote for a strike. At least one of the schools has come out 100% in favour of a further vote.

Jerry Glazier, Essex NUT executive member said: “I've been into schools to meet with heads and governors to discuss issues. In some schools I'm waiting for further meetings with governing bodies to see what the outcome is, to try to solve the dispute.

“We want to use responsible negotiation to try and resolve the dispute. We want to find resolutions without recourse to strike action.”

However, he added: “It is a weapon we are prepared to use, but it's the worst scenario and a big decision.”

Many schools have tried to assimilate the old Management Allowance (MA) system into the new Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR) structure.

But Mr Glazier warned the new structure will result in a dearth of promotions, which will force younger newly-qualified teachers out of the profession when Essex already suffers retention and recruitment problems.

An Essex teacher, who did not want to be named, said many teachers regard the pay scale changes as a “big kick in the teeth”.

“Many teachers are not happy about it. They will lose money when TLRs take over. It will lead to unrealistic workloads.”

Teachers in Suffolk are also considering industrial action. Martin Goold, Suffolk county secretary for the NUT, said: “The situation at the moment in Suffolk is that there are no actual ballots going on but there are some preliminary discussions going on which may lead to a ballot.

“We are getting people that are losing substantial amounts of money, up to £5,000, while still being expected to do the job they are doing. Our lawyers tell us it's legal but it's not right.

“I think teachers would be prepared to strike.”

He said the NUT would be prepared to use industrial methods and if that did not work it would take individual grievances to the Government. There are currently around six cases in Suffolk where grievances had been “lodged”, he added.

The Department for Education and Skills said the new system provides an opportunity for schools to organise their teaching and learning responsibilities in a new way, focusing on the professionalism of all teachers and enabling rewards to be given for tasks which have a real impact on raising pupil attainment and the professional practice of other teachers.

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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