he Government and education unions have agreed to “intensive talks” on teacher pay, conditions and workload reduction.
The talks will involve unions including the National Education Union (NEU), whose members were on strike in England earlier this week.
The news follows a breakthrough in the NHS dispute on Thursday, with leaders of nurses, ambulance crews and other health workers agreeing to suspend further industrial action while ballots are held on a new pay offer.
A joint statement by the Government and education unions said: “The Government and the education trade unions, Association of School and College Leaders, National Association of Head Teachers, NASUWT and National Education Union, have agreed to move into a period of intensive talks. The talks will focus on teacher pay, conditions and workload reduction.
“In order for talks to begin and, we hope, reach a successful conclusion, the NEU has confirmed it will create a period of calm for two weeks during which time they have said no further strike dates will be announced.
“The Education Secretary and all unions will meet today, beginning intensive talks, which will continue over the weekend.”
It comes after two days of strikes by members of the NEU on Wednesday and Thursday, with London being the most affected region in the country by strike-related school closures.
Department for Education data showed that fewer than one in five schools were fully open to pupils, with just 18% of schools in the capital fully open on both strike days, while 18% and 17% of schools were fully closed on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan had invited the NEU to formal talks on teachers’ pay before this week’s strikes on the condition that the union’s planned strikes were cancelled.
But the union had refused to suspend the walkout in England until the Government made a pay offer that could end the dispute.
It comes after the Government struck a pay deal with health unions to pause strikes by nurses and paramedics.
Unions accepted a pay deal involving a one-off lump sum payment for this financial year and a five per cent pay rise. The deal will now be put to union members for a vote before being accepted.
However, separate industrial action by junior doctors is ongoing following a 72-hour walkout from Monday that significantly impacted services across the NHS.
Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday: “Our position has been that we are open to talk in good faith, meaningfully, at any time.”
Meanwhile, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has announced a five-week strike by its members in the Passport Office in an escalation of its long-running dispute with the Government over pay, pensions, jobs and conditions.
Those working in Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport, Peterborough and Southport will walk out from April 3 to May 5, while those in Belfast will strike from April 7 to May 5.