Striking teachers in the NEU on the march in London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The NEU education union leaders are backtracking on the battle over pay and suggesting a below-inflation deal could end the fight.

As NEU members were taking to the picket lines on Friday, joint general secretary Mary Bousted told BBC Radio 4 that must publish the schools pay review body recommendations and “If it is 6.5 per cent, I believe that this would stop.”

Later in the day a joint press statement from Bousted and fellow general secretary Kevin Courtney said if the recommended 6.5 percent “were properly funded” it “could bring the dispute to a close”.

Teachers in England are on day two of action this week, following a walkout on Wednesday. They’ve been out for a total of seven days of national action since February, with an eighth hitting different regions on separate days.

Previously NEU union leaders demanded a fully-funded, above-inflation pay rise, with RPI now at 11.3 percent.

Debs Gwynn, an NEU national executive member, told Socialist Worker that accepting 6.5 percent “is not something we’ve even discussed.”

“All along we’ve been looking for a fully-funded and in line with inflation pay rise,” she said. “To say we would accept less is giving the government a get-out card. And any offer we get should be put to our members.

“It’s not up to the general secretary to go against that to say what members will accept.

“I don’t think the message this morning is a message members want to hear. We want to hear that we’re sticking to our guns, and staying out as long as it takes.”

The comments from the top come a day after Labour leader Keir Starmer refused to back a 6.5 percent pay rise for striking teachers, and free school meals for all primary school children.

The School Teachers’ Review Body is believed to have recommended a 6.5 percent increase in pay for teachers. The report was leaked back in May but has not been made public.

Jon Reddiford, another NEU executive member based in south-west England, told Socialist Worker, “It’s not a decision for Bousted to make.

“She won’t be in the post in September when these decisions are made—and they’re decisions to be made democratically by those striking.”

In March the Tories offered teachers 4.5 percent for next year, and a one-off £1,000 for this year. NEU members rightly rejected this. Only 0.5 percent of that would be funded by new government money, with the rest coming from school budgets.

NEU national executive member Chris Denson also told Socialist Worker, “Our strike has been about school funding but also rectifying a decade of pay cuts for teachers.

“My pay is more than 24 percent lower than 2010 and 6.5 percent is still a way from an inflation-beating pay resolution. We have to beat the ballot thresholds in the re-vote taking place now, and seriously escalate our action in the autumn term to drive a nail into the coffin of austerity.”

The NEU, alongside the NASUWT teaching union, the NAHT head teachers’ union and the Association of School and College Leaders are balloting members in England over action in the new school year.

With action also possible in the universities and further education colleges by UCU members, the whole of education could be out.

Jon explained that the re-ballot in the NEU that closes on 24 July for extended action “is going really well”.

“Every district in the south west of England has a better turnout than it did around the Christmas ballot. It’s looking really positive—people don’t want to give up the fight.”

Jon said that while the pickets this week have looked “a bit smaller, some schools have been out for the first time.”

“And the number of people striking is solid. Members are up for the fight, but the pattern of action has led to a loss of momentum.

“We shouldn’t have gone two months between 2 May and 5 July without striking. At our rally on Wednesday there was serious discussion about increasing the amount of action.”

Debs also added that on picket lines on Friday morning in Widnes, “Strikers were really clear that it’s going to take more frequent days to get what we want.

“We’ve had big pickets this week, and that’s not what the government and union thought the situation would be in July. Lots of people are reporting more people getting involved than previously. It shows a level of anger among members.”

All the NEU exec members quoted spoke in a personal capacity

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