Sixth Form Industrial Action to go ahead, but the Secretary of State for Education was entitled to bring her challenge

March 15th, 2016

Secretary of State for Education v NUT (14 March 2016, Kerr J)

The Court has decided that a challenge to the lawfulness of strike action may be brought by the Secretary of State for Education upon an application for an interim declaration pursuant to CPR r25.1(1)(b), even though the Secretary of State had no legal cause of action, or ‘lis’, against the union for inducement of breaches of contract; any such claim resting with the employer. In the instant case, the NUT called upon teachers in sixth form colleges to undertake a day of strike action. The teachers were employed directly by the colleges, not by the Secretary of State. Nonetheless, in what is understood to be the first case of its kind, the Court (Kerr J) accepted that the Secretary of State had standing to bring the challenge in light of the public interest involved and her status as both the target of the strike action and guardian of education in England and Wales. Although, on the facts, a declaration was not granted, and the strike will be going ahead, this case represents recognition of the Court’s willingness to grant declarations, including interim declarations, in appropriate cases.

Clive Sheldon QC and Marcus Pilgerstorfer represented the Secretary of State.

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