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‘The fight is escalating and we’re going to win’ says teacher as Cambridgeshire schools face five more days of strikes





Cambridgeshire schools look set for five days of strikes in summer term and possible action into autumn as the UK’s largest education union is set to reballot members in a dispute over pay.

Delegates at the National Education Union’s (NEU) annual conference have voted in support of a three-day strike in late June/early July.

It comes after the union announced two further strike days on April 27 and May 2 after 98 per cent of NEU members, who responded in a consultative ballot, voted to turn down the government’s pay offer.

Teachers rally at Parker's Piece during an earlier strike. Picture: Keith Heppell
Teachers rally at Parker's Piece during an earlier strike. Picture: Keith Heppell

A motion, passed at the union’s conference in Harrogate, also called on the executive to use the exam period next month to begin a reballot of teacher members in England on further industrial action later this year.

If successful, the reballot could lead to strikes across schools in England into the next academic year.

Tom Finch, a teacher in South Cambridgeshire, said: “I’m astounded by the scale of this result, which is even bigger than the NEU’s first consultative strike ballot. It feels like the strike is growing, the fight is escalating and we’re going to win.”

After a period of intensive talks with unions, the government offered teachers a £1,000 one-off payment for the current school year (2022/23) and an average 4.5 per cent pay rise for staff next year (2023/24). The government’s pay deal was described as “paltry” and “inadequate” by delegates at the NEU’s conference.

The urgent motion on pay, passed at the conference on Tuesday, April 4, said it is “vital” that the union plans “a programme of escalating strike action, political lobbying and community campaigning that can bring the maximum social weight to bear on the government throughout the summer term, and beyond”.

Teachers rally at Parker's Piece during an earlier strike. Picture: Keith Heppell
Teachers rally at Parker's Piece during an earlier strike. Picture: Keith Heppell

“Escalation would either involve a greater number of consecutive days than previously or more frequent strikes,” the motion says.

The union’s executive is due to confirm the specific dates of the planned strikes in late June/early July on May 18.

Many schools in England were forced to partially or fully close during strikes staged by the NEU in February and March as a result of a dispute over pay.

Delegates at the conference voted against an amendment of the motion which called for four further strike days to be held during the exam period in May and June this year.

Members voiced concerns that disrupting pupils’ exams would lead to a decline in support for the union’s campaign on pay.

Sophie, a Cambridgeshire primary school teacher for three years, said: “I am so scared I will have to join the 33 per cent of teachers that quit in their first five years. I have two children. I feel like I never see them. I have no work-life balance and work 70-80 hours a week. I clear well under £2,000 a month. I work all weekends and have to run clubs or attend meetings every weekday apart from Fridays. I love teaching but I don’t know how much longer I can take this.”

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson said: “We would not comment on any industrial action. Closer to the strike days, we will provide the usual updates on our website regarding any potential school closures.”



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