Teacher strikes: government and education unions hold ‘intensive talks’ after NHS breakthrough

Teachers have paused strike action for at least two weeks, while education unions meet with government on pay, conditions, and workload

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The government and education unions have agreed to meet for “intensive talks” on issues which have sparked a series of strikes by teachers in recent months.

The talks, which will focus on pay, conditions and workload reduction, will involve unions including the National Education Union (NEU), whose members were on strike in England earlier this week.

The news follows a breakthrough in the NHS dispute on Thursday, with unions representing nurses, ambulance staff, and other health workers agreeing to suspend further industrial action while ballots are held on a new pay offer.

A joint statement by government and education unions - released on Friday - said: “The government and the education trade unions, Association of School and College Leaders, National Association of Head Teachers, NASUWT and National Education Union, have agreed to move into a period of intensive talks. The talks will focus on teacher pay, conditions and workload reduction.

Teaching unions have entered intensive talks with education secretary Gillian Keegan on Friday (Photos: Getty)Teaching unions have entered intensive talks with education secretary Gillian Keegan on Friday (Photos: Getty)
Teaching unions have entered intensive talks with education secretary Gillian Keegan on Friday (Photos: Getty)

“In order for talks to begin and, we hope, reach a successful conclusion, the NEU has confirmed it will create a period of calm for two weeks during which time they have said no further strike dates will be announced," it said.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and all unions would meet on Friday, beginning intensive talks which will continue over the weekend.

On Thursday, the government put forward a new offer for NHS workers, which included a permanent, blanket 5% pay rise for 2023/24, and an “additional lump sum” for this year, meaning a newly qualified nurse would get an extra £1,800 this year on top of the existing deal and a pay rise of more than £1,300 next year.

Strike action has been paused while health unions take the new offer to their members, to vote on. Health secretary Steve Barclay called on striking junior doctors to follow the other health unions' example, saying government had offered them the same terms.

"A request from them for a pay rise of 35% is not affordable. That is why we need to see from them the same sort of leadership that we have seen from the trade unions in the Agenda for Change contract," he said.