The NASUWT, the largest union in Wales representing exclusively teachers and headteachers, has lodged a formal national trade dispute with the Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams.
The formal national dispute is over pay and conditions of service, and adverse management practices, specifically relating to workload and ineffective management of pupil indiscipline.
85% of teachers in Wales say that workload is their top concern about their job. Teachers report that the main drivers of workload are marking and assessment policies, administrative and clerical tasks and curriculum change.
Well over half of teachers in Wales believe there is a problem with pupil indiscipline in their own school. 88% of teachers report being verbally abused in the last twelve months, 15% report having been physically assaulted and 46% say they have been regularly shoved or barged by pupils over the same period.
73% of teachers in Wales do not believe that they are paid at a level commensurate with their skills, abilities and experience. Two thirds believe that graduates are being deterred from a career in teaching because of the levels of pay. 43% of teachers report cutting back on food and over a quarter on other essential household items.
- Three quarters of teachers in Wales say that their mental health has been adversely affected by their job, two thirds saying their physical health has been affected and 73% of teachers saying that they have seriously considered quitting teaching altogether in the last twelve months.
Ms Chris Keates, NASUWT Acting General Secretary, said:
“NASUWT members across Wales have made clear to the Union that their top, most pressing concerns about their job are excessive workload, pupil indiscipline and pay.
“Whilst the Government may claim that it recognises the issues and has taken action to address workload, the reality is that there has been no tangible improvement. Schools and employers have simply ignored any workload strategies and guidance issued by Government. Meanwhile excessive workload continues to blight teachers’ working lives and the Government has failed to act to ensure that burdens are reduced.
“Concerns about pupil indiscipline also continued to rise.
“In too many schools there is now a flourishing culture of ‘blame the teacher’ for the unacceptable behaviour of pupils. No teacher should go to work with the expectation that they will be verbally abused or physically assaulted and yet in too many instances they are.
“All teachers, in whatever type of school or setting they work, are entitled to a working environment free from violence and disruption. The Government is failing to ensure that employers and schools provide this.
“The Government has a responsibility to ensure that teachers are being fully supported in seeking to maintain high standards of pupil behaviour.
“A decade of austerity imposed by the Westminster Government has played a key part in the decline in teachers’ pay in Wales, exacerbated by the freedoms and flexibilities over pay at school level and the removal of the national pay scales from the teachers’ contract, it also imposed.
“However, the Minister has had the opportunity to address this following the devolution of pay and conditions in 2018 but instead has squandered that opportunity by failing to implement fully the recommendations from the Independent Welsh Pay Review Body.
“The 20% teachers’ pay gap compared with other graduate professions will never be addressed unless the Government takes seriously the Wales Pay Review Body process.
“I wrote to the Minister in August raising once again the deep concerns of teachers and received a reply in October. Regrettably, the Minister failed to engage seriously with any of the detailed points made, merely noting the issues relating to pupil indiscipline and making references to the other concerns the NASUWT had highlighted being discussed in a series of meetings with stakeholders. These are the very same meetings which have failed to make any material or positive difference to the working lives of teachers.
“The continued failure to address issues, which are affecting the physical and mental health of teachers and leading to a situation where almost three quarters have seriously considered quitting the profession in the last year, is not acceptable.
“All the evidence shows that the situation is now at crisis point. Action to tackle these concerns is needed now.”
Neil Butler, NASUWT National Official (Wales), said:
“In the light of the Minister’s unacceptable response, the NASUWT has decided that there is no choice but to lodge of formal trade dispute with the Welsh Government.
“In lodging the formal dispute, the NASUWT requested a meeting with the Minister, prior to the Union balloting its members in furtherance of the dispute.
“A meeting to discuss the NASUWT trade dispute with the Minister will take place at the beginning of December 2019.
“If we cannot secure at that meeting progress which will secure strategies to make an immediate tangible difference to teachers’ daily lives on their issues of concern, then the Union will have no choice but to consider balloting members for industrial action.”