Express & Star

Looming strikes leave headteacher backing staff while looking at keeping lessons going

A Dudley headteacher has spoken of balancing his support for teachers with the need to keep his school open and students learning.

Sukhjot Dhami said he was looking at balancing the rights of teachers to strike with keeping lessons going at Beacon Hill Academy

Beacon Hill Academy principal Sukhjot Dhami is one of many school leaders across the region who will looking at contingency plans for lessons if a fresh round of teachers' strikes begins over pay and conditions.

The National Education Union (NEU) has recommended that its members reject what it described as an "insulting" pay offer from the Government of a £1,000 one-off cash payment for the present school year and a 4.3 per cent consolidated pay rise for most teachers the following year.

The NEU co-leader Mary Bousted has said teachers do not want to take industrial action on exam days but refused to rule it out if members agree to turn down the pay offer.

At Beacon Hill Academy in Sedgley, Mr Dhami said he supported his staff and their right to strike, while also looking at how to keep the school running during an important period.

He said: "I totally support the right for my teachers to strike, but, as a headteacher, I will be doing everything I can to keep the school open for all of our learners in every year group, especially during this time, when we have GCSE results in less than 20 days.

"I think parents will be looking at the government to avert any future strikes and put in place a meaningful offer on the table.

"There is overwhelming evidence that we have already have a full-blown teacher recruitment and retention crisis due to the erosion of teacher paying conditions over the last decade.

"It's a difficult time for headteachers to navigate through any future strikes that may be planned but, as a headteacher, I will also be doing everything I can to keep education going if the strikes go on."

In conversation with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the NEU's Mary Bousted spoke about the offer and how the committee had seen it.

She said: "Our executive committee looked carefully at the offer and decided it was really insulting and that the union had to offer advice to members, who will either take that advice or ignore us."

Asked whether strikes could disrupt exams, she said: "We really hope that that doesn't take place.

"What we hope is that, if the members do reject the offer, we want to go back to the Government and say 'You have to do better', reopen negotiations, and let's see if we can get an offer that members will find respectable."

The Government has described its offer to teachers as "fair and reasonable".

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said: "The Government and the education unions - NAHT, ASCL, NEU and NASUWT - have engaged in intensive discussions over the last 10 days.

"The Government has put forward a fair and reasonable offer, backed with funding for schools.

"The offer provides an average 4.5 pre cent pay rise for next year, puts £1,000 into the pockets of teachers as a one-off payment for this year, and commits to reducing workload by five hours each week.

"This is a good deal for teachers that acknowledges their hard work and dedication."

Smaller teaching unions, including the NASUWT and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), have said they will ask for feedback from members on the pay offer.

The headteachers' union, NAHT, said its national executive committee will consider the details before deciding its next steps.