UK/January 20, 2023/By: Helen Johnson/Source: https://www.channel4.com/
Teachers will strike in England and Wales on seven dates in February and March in a dispute over pay.
The National Education Union (NEU) said it has continually raised its concerns with successive education secretaries about pay, but that “instead of seeking to resolve the issue” the government has “sat on their hands”.
The UK government said it is “deeply disappointing” that teachers have voted to strike and that industrial action “will have a damaging impact on pupils’ education and wellbeing”.
So, when and where will teacher strikes take place and will schools close?
Here’s what we know so far.
What are the dates of the teacher strikes in England and Wales?
There will be seven days of strike action in February and March, but any individual school will only be affected by four of them depending on where it is.
The full list of projected strike days are as follows:
- Wednesday 1 February 2023: England and Wales
- Tuesday 14 February 2023: Wales
- Tuesday 28 February 2023: North East England, North West England, Yorkshire & The Humber
- Wednesday 1 March 2023: East Midlands, West Midlands, East of England
- Thursday 2 March 2023: London, the South East and South West England
- Wednesday 15 March 2023: England and Wales
- Thursday 16 March 2023: England and Wales
Why are teachers going on strike?
Most state school teachers in England were awarded a 5 per cent rise in 2022, according to the Department for Education (DfE), but the NEU said this rise actually equates to a pay cut because of high inflation rates.
The NEU said of the teachers who were balloted, 90 per cent in England and 92 per cent in Wales supported strike action.
But head teachers will not strike in England after a ballot by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) union failed to meet the legally-required threshold of a 50% turnout.
Will schools be shut?
Whether or not a school will close during industrial action will depend on how many staff in each school go on strike, and the decision will be for the headteacher to make.
The DfE said it expects headteachers in England to aim to keep the school open for as many pupils as possible in the event of a strike, with some teachers to be asked to cover lessons or classes brought together.
Schools who are unable to provide in-school learning for all pupils are being encouraged to provide remote education, such as online lessons.
In some cases, schools may need to restrict attendance, but, if this does happen, the DfE has asked schools to prioritise vulnerable children, children of critical workers and pupils taking exams.
The Welsh government said it will be for individual schools, alongside local authorities, to put into place measures that minimise the impact on pupils’ learning.
Schools will let parents know in advance what measures will be in place during strikes, but it’s not yet clear how much warning they will get. The DfE said it would expect schools to let parents know in good time, but the exact amount of notice will be a decision for its headteacher.
Could the strikes be prevented?
The NEU said it hopes the dispute can be resolved without strike action and is willing to enter into negotiations at any time. It said it met with the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan last week and would be happy to do so again, but “no concrete proposals on teacher or support staff pay were put forward.”
This was echoed by Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute, who told FactCheck: “Ministers and teaching unions need to meet as soon as possible and engage in constructive dialogue in order to reach a solution.”
She noted that there is “a real risk of a long-term stand-off between unions and government”, and that while the government “probably feels that its offer to teaching staff has been fair”, the ballot results “suggest that teachers do not share this view”.
The Education Secretary said it is “deeply disappointing for children and parents” that NEU teacher members have voted to strike.
She added that talks with union leaders “are ongoing”, but that strike action “will have a damaging impact on pupils’ education and wellbeing”.
A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We understand and respect the feelings expressed in these ballots for industrial action. The Minister for Education and Welsh Language [Jeremy Miles] will be meeting with teaching and headteacher unions later this week to discuss the outcome of ballots.”