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Mike Whale, Hull Socialist Party

With inflation predicted to rise to 4.3 per cent or higher, and after a decade of Tory austerity, teachers need a significant pay rise now. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, we are 8% worse off than we were in 2011. Or, to put it another way, we are now working a month for free.

Sunak’s pay freeze for this year was a further slap in the face to all school staff who kept education going through the height of the Covid pandemic. The small pay increase that might be forthcoming next year is likely to be a cut in real terms given inflation.

No wonder teachers are starting to leave the profession. If we are not careful, the ‘market forces’ of higher wages in some other sectors of the economy will lead to serious teacher shortages and a bigger threat to young people’s education than Covid itself.

Teachers’ pay is based on recommendations from the supposedly ‘independent’ School Teachers Review Board (STRB). But the STRB is not independent, it’s a government puppet.

We have to fight for the right to negotiate a pay rise like other workers, and our pay should form part of a national contract which limits the ridiculously high number of hours teachers have to work.

Appeals to Tory MPs’ better nature through petitions and postcards from individual teachers, which is what the union leadership is currently urging, are not enough. Instead, the NEU should prepare teachers for a strike ballot for a fully funded pay rise.

The Tories recent announcement that any pay rise must come from existing budgets is unacceptable. Schools will face the dilemma that if they make a much-needed pay award to their employees, they will have to make cuts somewhere else.

The union executive should be put on a war footing, organising meetings in every school and college to mobilise members. Let’s not forget the collective strength of the NEU forced the Tories to back down over the unsafe opening of schools back in January. A similar campaign on pay could be an unstoppable force in winning a decent pay rise for all education workers.