Education Minister Graham Cregeen has expressed disappointment that members of a teaching union have rejected a pay deal.

The leaders of the National Education Union had recommended to their members that they accept the offer from the government – after holding their own separate talks with education chiefs. But members voted against the deal by a substantial margin.Of 213 who took part in an NEU member survey on the pay offer, 70 voted to accept (32.86%) but 143 rejected it (67.14%).The other three unions, the NAHT, NASUWT and ACSL, have voted in favour of industrial action. They are due to discuss later today what industrial action – short of a strike – they will take.

In the House of Keys this morning Julie Edge (Onchan), a vehement critic of the Education Department’s handling of the dispute, was granted leave to ask an urgent question calling on Mr Cregeen to give a statement on the latest developments.

Mr Cregeen said it was ‘very disappointing’ the NEU membership had rejected the offer, under which the bottom two grades on the pay scale would have been removed – which the department said would effectively increase starting salaries by £6,000 – and put all teachers on the ‘London fringe area’ grading, effectively worth an extra £1,100 for all teachers.

But the other unions argued that the deal did not address their concerns. Critics also voiced fears that it could have a negative impact on teachers with two or three years’ experience, who could find themselves on virtually the same pay rate as newly qualified teachers.

During an increasingly tetchy exchange in the House of Keys this morning, Mr Cregeen at one point accused Ms Edge of smiling at union representatives who were watching from the public gallery – something she denied.