Talks set up in hope of avoiding sixth form college strikes

Unions representing sixth form college teachers have agreed a series of talks with civil servants in a bid to avoid industrial action at the end of next month.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT), which has threatened to strike on March 26 in response to government policy changes, met with officials from the Department for Education (DfE) and other unions on Tuesday (February 25).

So far, only the NUT has threatened strike action next month, for schools as well, and the union said it remained opposed to new policies including performance-related pay.

An NUT spokesperson said: “There was agreement that there would be a weekly series of meetings from now until Easter and continuing after Easter to look at various issues of implementation of government policy.

“We made it clear that we want to discuss more than implementation and that the direction of government policy is wrong. However, the civil servants were clear that their remit from [Education Secretary] Michael Gove is that the discussions must only be about implementation.

“It was agreed that the first item for discussion, at the next meeting on Wednesday, March 5, would be implementation of the performance related pay policy. We made it clear that we are opposed to this policy and also explained that there were many things going wrong in schools relating to this policy, which were leading to problems with equalities, workload and accountability driving teaching, amongst others.

“We also asked in the meeting for the publication of the teacher workload survey. We explained that this was essential if there was to be any meaningful discussion even on the questions of implementation. We were told that this publication would come soon. We have now learned that the survey will be published on Tuesday, March 4.”

The talks have been welcomed by other unions and professional bodies across the sector.

Sixth Form Colleges Association HR director Graham Baird said: “We are aware that the NUT have been involved in talks with DfE civil servants.

“In terms of any impact on sixth form colleges – if the talks are constructive, and depending on the outcomes, then this should provide the NUT with the opportunity to call off their proposed national strike action and thus avoid any potential disruption to the work of sixth form colleges.”

Other unions involved in the talks included the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said: “We are pleased the government agreed to a detailed series of discussions about the issues teachers are most concerned about in terms of pay, working conditions and school organisation. We look forward to making quick progress on some of these matters, and believe this will improve children’s achievement and enable schools to operate in a 21st century education environment.”

The NASUWT and ASCL declined to comment.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We met with union representatives to discuss the agenda for upcoming talks.”