NUT to debate school strike action
Schools could face fresh strikes as early as this summer as teachers remain embroiled in a row with ministers over changes to pensions and pay.
A priority motion on public sector pensions, expected to be discussed at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference in Torquay, calls for joint walkouts this summer and beyond to "defeat the Government's proposals".
It says that the NUT should attempt to build a "coalition of unions" committed to more strikes. The summer term is the main exam period for schools across the UK, although the NUT insisted it was not the union's intention to disrupt it.
"Our dispute is with the Secretary of State, and ultimately, with the rest of the Government in terms of public sector pensions," NUT general secretary Christine Blower said.
"We will obviously, when we discuss with other unions, discuss what timing makes sense and which regions make sense, but we would not be setting out, deliberately, to undermine the exams season."
She said that in the past, certain members have been exempted from taking strike action if it affected the exam period. The NUT took part in a walkout over pensions on June 30 last year, which was after the exams period, as well as joining the TUC's national day of action on November 30. NUT members in London also staged a one-day walkout last month.
The union argues that the Government's reforms will leave teachers paying in more, working longer and receiving less when they retire. However, ministers have insisted that changes to public sector pensions are needed to ensure they are sustainable for the future.
A Department for Education spokesman said: "The deal on teachers' pensions is as good as it gets and takes the right balance. It guarantees teachers one of the best pensions available but keeps a lid on rising costs for the taxpayer.
"We've been in serious talks for months with unions to address their concerns and reach a final settlement.
"Reforms to public sector pensions are essential - the status quo is not an option. The cost to the taxpayer of teacher pensions is already forecast to double from £5 billion in 2006 to £10 billion in 2016 and will carry on rising rapidly as life expectancy continues to rocket."