School heads vote for first strike in defence of public sector pensions

A HEAD TEACHER’S union has overwhelmingly backed a national walkout for the first time in its history over the Government’s public sector pension plans.

Members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) voted in favour of strike action – a move which is likely to close thousands of schools and affect millions of children.

The union says the Government’s plans will leave teachers working longer, paying more and receiving less when they retire.

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Turnout for the ballot was 53.6 per cent with 75.8 per cent voting in favour of strike action, the NAHT said.

Members of the NAHT are now likely to join the TUC’s day of action on November 30.

It is the first time in the union’s 114-year history that members have voted to strike.

NAHT members hold leadership positions in most special schools, 85 per cent of primary schools and more than 40 of secondary schools, meaning any action would affect schools across the country.

The NAHT’s general secretary, Russell Hobby described the result is an “unhappy milestone”.

He added: “I have spoken at length to many school leaders and not one has been anything other than upset and sometimes downright angry that they have been forced into this situation as the only way to stand up for the profession and standards.

“We welcome the Government’s recent concessions as marking, finally, the start of genuine negotiations. It is sad that it has taken this long, but it is a start.

“We would like to avoid action if at all possible and will be negotiating intensely and in good faith in the run up to the 30th. Teachers are already doing their bit to address the economic downturn by accepting a pay freeze and sharing the burdens of a strapped economy along with every other taxpayer.

“The pay freeze is saving the Government hundreds of millions. The proposed cuts are unfair, ill thought-through and purely being used to pay for the mistakes of the financial sector.”

Ministers say changes to public sector pensions are necessary to ensure the schemes are sustainable. On a visit to a school on Tuesday Education Secretary Michael Gove urged teachers not to strike.