The Government sparked anger from teachers’ leaders after writing to schools warning that union members taking industrial action are “highly likely” to be in breach of their contract.
Head teachers could deduct the pay of members of the National Union of Teachers and NASUWT taking part in action short of a strike, following advice from Government lawyers, said Education Secretary Michael Gove.
In a letter to schools, Mr Gove said action taken since October over a range of issues including pay, pensions, job losses and workload, was threatening the quality of pupils’ education.
He wrote that a small number of schools were “starting to see a severe impact and where this is the case, I believe a robust response is needed. I believe we should tackle this action swiftly and firmly before it causes any more damage.
“The legal position is clear: teachers who are following this industrial action are very likely to be in breach of their contracts. Pay deductions represent a lawful response, and the advice sets out how deductions can be made in a proportionate and reasonable way,” said the letter.
Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, said: “The Secretary of State is recklessly encouraging schools to take punitive action against teachers on the basis of advice which is littered with caveats and ambiguities.” General secretary Russell Hobby said: “We will make our own judgments about the best course of action to meet the needs of our schools.”