Every state school in England could face more strikes in the autumn, after teaching unions vowed to coordinate walkouts if they go ahead.
The move means 400,000 members from the National Education Union (NEU), Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), NASUWT and Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) could trigger widespread disruption as part of the long-running dispute over pay.
However, only the NEU currently holds a mandate to strike, with members set to take action on Tuesday. It will re-ballot its members over summer over whether to continue walkouts.
NAHT and the NASUWT teaching union both failed to make the 50% threshold in its latest balloting, and will ask members again ahead of the autumn term.
The ASCL will also ballot its members – the first time in its history.
Asked about the impact of possible co-ordinated strike action at the NAHT’s annual conference in Telford, Mr Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “I think with our four unions you would find that every state school in England would be affected by the dispute and that would put you up at 300,000-400,000 teachers… involved in taking the action, I would have thought.
“We don’t want to take it. We want to find a solution. But with all four of us acting together I think we will all pass the government’s undemocratic thresholds and so it would be an enormous response from our members.
“We would sincerely apologise to parents for disrupting their children’s education if we’re pushed to that. And we would sincerely apologise to them for disrupting their home and their working lives. However, what we are seeing is disruption in children’s education every week of the school year.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, told the conference: “I have been around a decade and I have never seen the co-ordination that we are seeing here.”
The latest move from teaching unions comes after the government offered teachers a £1,000 one-off payment for this year, as well as a 4.5% pay rise for next year.
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All four unions rejected the offer.
A decision on pay for education staff has been given to the independent School Teachers’ Review Body.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “For unions to co-ordinate strike action with the aim of causing maximum disruption to schools is unreasonable and disproportionate, especially given the impact the pandemic has already had on their learning.
“Children’s education has always been our absolute priority, and they should be in classrooms where they belong.
“We have made a fair and reasonable teacher pay offer to the unions, which recognises teachers’ hard work and commitment as well as delivering an additional £2bn in funding for schools, which they asked for.”