Cut pay of teachers who work to rule, Michael Gove orders headsEducation Secretary writes to heads advising that a 'robust response' is needed to union actionSome members of the NUT and NASUWT are working to rule, having a 'severe impact' on children's education, minister warns
Staff refusing to cover lessons or produce lesson plansUnion leaders say it is an escalation of Mr Gove's 'war on teachers'
01:19 GMT, 13 December 2012
Education Secretary Michael Gove wrote to headteachers, advising a 'robust response' to striking staff, including cutting pay
Headmasters were yesterday told to
slash the pay of teachers taking industrial action after thousands
joined a campaign of disruption.
Members of the National Union of
Teachers and rival NASUWT have been working to rule complaining about
pay, pensions and working conditions.
But ministers have received legal
advice that teachers are ‘highly likely’ to be breaking their contracts
if they refuse to carry out 25 classroom tasks.
The industrial action includes
refusing to cover for other staff, hand in lesson plans or complete more
than one pupil report per year.
Education Secretary Michael Gove wrote to headmasters saying they can dock the pay of those taking industrial action.
He accused the staff of being ‘highly irresponsible’ and demanded ‘robust action’.
Mr Gove warned the work-to-rule
scheme, launched in October, is creating ‘major problems’ in schools
where militant teachers hold sway, threatening the quality of pupils’
education and placing additional burdens on other teachers.
Legal advice says that teachers who
are following the industrial action ‘are very likely to be in breach of
their contracts’ and that ‘pay deductions represent a lawful response’.
Mr Gove pointed out only a ‘tiny proportion’ of teachers voted for
industrial action, with just a 27 per cent turnout in the case of the
But while the ‘vast majority of
schools are currently unaffected’, Mr Gove said: ‘A small number,
however, are starting to see a severe impact and where this is the case,
I believe a robust response is needed.
‘This action sets out only to cause
unnecessary disruption in schools, while at the same time threatening to
damage children’s education.
‘I am also concerned about the increased burden on the many hard-working teachers across the country.
Mr Gove claims industrial action taken by the NUT and NASUWT teaching unions of 'severe impact' on schools (file picture)
Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg condemned the union action but accused Mr Gove of 'playing politics'
‘Industrial action of this kind is
associated with significant damage to pupil outcomes. I believe we
should tackle this action swiftly and firmly before it causes any more
damage in schools.’
The Education Secretary has already
clashed with the unions over Government plans – recommended by the
teaching pay review body – to scrap national pay bargaining and
introduce performance-related pay.
That will allow heads to reward
talented teachers rather than waste money on pay rises for those who
have simply served the longest.
NASUWT’s Chris Keates said: ‘Any
school which acts on his advice leaves itself vulnerable to extensive
and expensive litigation and escalation of industrial action.’
claimed ‘not one single day of education has been disrupted as a result’
of the industrial action.
Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg said: ‘We oppose this industrial action being taken by the NUT and NASUWT.
‘It is not right that schools and pupils should be affected in this way.
‘But Michael Gove is playing politics. This is not the way to attract new recruits to the profession.’
A DfE spokesman said: ‘NASUWT and NUT
are trying to intimidate school leaders through threats of strike action
and legal action.
‘We will support any school that takes appropriate sanctions against this irresponsible industrial action.’
A ROBUST RESPONSE IS NEEDED: MICHAEL GOVE'S LETTER IN FULL
I am writing to you to seek your support in tackling a threat to the quality of pupils’ education which has emerged recently. I am referring to the highly irresponsible industrial action started by the NUT and NASUWT on 3 October.
The NUT and NASUWT have issued a series of 25 instructions setting out activities which their members should refuse to undertake. Only a tiny proportion of the profession voted in favour of this industrial action – with a turnout of only 27% in the case of the NUT.
An even smaller proportion of teachers are choosing to follow these instructions. The vast majority of schools are currently unaffected. A small number, however, are starting to see a severe impact and where this is the case, I believe a robust response is needed.
I respect the right of teachers to take industrial action, but this action short of a strike lacks a clear purpose or even a set of coherent aims. It sets out only to cause unnecessary disruption in schools, while at the same time threatening to damage children’s education.
The NUT and NASUWT have instructed their members to refuse to undertake cover for other teachers, creating additional work for their colleagues. The unions want their members to refuse to hand in lesson plans to senior management, making it more difficult for them to manage their schools.
Perhaps most unreasonably, the instructions go as far as refusing to provide more than one written report each year to parents.
Those are only three of twenty five instructions, which would place unnecessary pressure on headteachers, governing bodies and Academy Trusts. I am also concerned about the increased burden on the many hard-working teachers across the country who are focusing entirely on providing the best education possible for all of their pupils.
I am sure that you will agree that this is not a constructive or effective way for organisations representing professionals to work. I believe it is damaging the reputation of the profession with the public, at a time when we have the best ever cohort who are working harder than ever.
Feedback from parents suggests they find it difficult to understand why the education of their children needs to suffer. Feedback from teachers suggests they find it frustrating that they need to pick up the work that other teachers should be doing.
Furthermore, international evidence shows that industrial action of this kind is associated with significant damage to pupil outcomes, particularly in the long term. The threat to pupil outcomes in affected schools is therefore a real one. I believe we should tackle this action swiftly and firmly before it causes any more damage in schools.
In response to requests from headteachers, I have published advice for schools on the Department for Education website about appropriate sanctions, which I have also attached to this letter.
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.
I would be very grateful if you could support your school(s) in taking a robust response, including through pay deductions where appropriate.
I am convinced that by working together in a coordinated way we can protect the pupils, parents, teachers and headteachers who would otherwise suffer because of this irresponsible industrial action.