Teachers in Wales are to go on strike over pay and funding.
Members of the National Education Union Cymru and NAHT, which represents school leaders, have announced that members have voted in favour of industrial action.
The NEU said that teacher members in Wales have voted overwhelmingly for strike action and the ballot has successfully surpassed the threshold set by Welsh Government for strike action.
The question put was, "Are you prepared to take strike action in furtherance of this dispute?" 92.28% of teacher members voted YES, on a turnout of 58.1%.
The NEU says the ballot is a result of failure by the Welsh Government to ensure enough money is available to allow employers to pay a fully funded increase in pay for teachers and support staff which at least matches inflation, and which begins to restore lost pay.
The union is declaring four days of strike action in February and March in Wales. The first will be on Wednesday, February 1, affecting around 1,500 workplaces in Wales.
A ballot of support staff was also conducted alongside the teacher ballot in Wales. In Wales, the ballot result for support staff in schools saw the majority of members vote YES; 88.26% on a turnout of 51.3%.
This means that both teachers and support staff in state-funded schools in Wales who are in NEU membership are able to take strike action in pursuance of a fully funded, above inflation pay rise.
NEU strike dates in Wales
The full list of projected strike days in Wales are as follows:
Wednesday 1 February 2023: all eligible members in England and Wales.
Tuesday 14 February 2023: all eligible members in Wales.
Wednesday 15 March 2023: all eligible members in England and Wales.
Thursday 16 March 2023: all eligible members in England and Wales.
David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union Cymru, said: "We have continually raised our concerns with the Education Minister about teacher and support staff pay, and Welsh Government funding of schools, but so far they have not taken steps to resolve the issue.
"Teachers have lost around 20% in real-terms since 2010, and support staff 27% over the same period. The 5% pay rise for teachers this year is some 7% behind inflation. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, that is an unsustainable situation.
"Around a quarter of teachers are leaving within their first five years of qualifying. This is a waste of important talent and taxpayers' money, yet the Welsh Government has not acted to ensure the conditions they are allowing in schools support retention.
"The Welsh Government must know there is going to have to be action on teacher pay. They must realise that school support staff need a pay rise.
"If they do not, then the consequences are clear for parents and children. Anyone who values education should support us in this dispute because that is what we are standing up for
"It continues to be the aspiration of the NEU and its membership that this dispute can be resolved without recourse to strike action. We regret having to take strike action and are willing to enter into negotiations at any time, any place, but this situation cannot go on.
"We will be meeting with Jeremy Miles in the coming days and look forward to doing so, we will continue to press that concrete proposals on teacher and support staff pay be put forward."
Head teachers also vote to go on strike
School leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, which represents leaders in the majority of schools in Wales, has also today announced the results of its formal industrial action ballot on pay and funding.
The ballot results show an exceptionally strong appetite for taking industrial action, with 95% voting ‘Yes’ to action short of strike (ASOS) and 75% voting ‘Yes’ to strike, with a turnout of 55% of the union’s membership.
Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “The results of this ballot are unprecedented, and reflect the sheer strength of feeling among school leaders in Wales that the system is broken. They feel they have no choice but to stand up and fight for themselves and for the children and staff in their schools.
“School leaders are relentlessly reasonable people and they have held their schools together throughout a decade of underfunding of education, eroded salaries, and a pandemic. But our members are telling me now that they cannot continue to run their schools in the current circumstances.
“Insufficient pay has caused a severe recruitment and retention crisis, and the lack of resources, funding, services and staff means that the education and support that can be given to pupils is suffering as a consequence. School leaders are doing their best with what little they have, but with their own salaries expected to be worth as much as 22% less this year than in 2010, many are reaching breaking point.
“No school leaders would take industrial action lightly and we will now return to our National Executive Committee to agree what the action voted for will look like and when it will take place. But this is a huge wake up call for Local Authority employers and the Welsh Government. For school leaders to be driven to voting to strike means things have gone very wrong indeed. They urgently need to listen to our members’ concerns and to take action to avoid the consequences of the industrial action to come.”
Laura Doel, director of NAHT Cymru, said: “The continuous education reform agenda, issues with recruitment and retention, and the repeated underfunding of schools has left our education system at breakpoint. Our leaders are being asked to do more with less, schools are losing staff, and those left are struggling to keep up with the demands of the job.
“This result should act as a wake-up call to the Welsh Government that their ambitious reform agenda is endangering the education of learners across Wales. Our focus must be on delivering the new curriculum and ALN legislation and any vanity projects, like reforming the school day/year for example, need to be kicked into the long grass. An urgent review of the middle tier, its funding and its value must also form part of the discussion.
“The local authority employers need to either realise the plight of schools and work with us to address the issues or sit on the side-lines while we address the burdens placed on the system with the government and fight to free up the much-needed funds to enable our schools to run properly.
“We need to invest in education where it offers the most value for our learners, and that’s in the workforce. It is only with highly skilled, quality teachers and teaching assistants in our classrooms, and strong leaders in our schools, that we can deliver for our children.”
School leaders in Wales will join their colleagues in Northern Ireland in taking action. Members of NAHT Northern Ireland have been engaged in action short of strike since 18 October 2022.