British schools face closure as teachers strike – BBC News

  • By Hazel Shearing
  • Education journalist

image source, Getty’s image

Many schools in England will likely be closed on Wednesday, as teachers leave again on paychecks.

This is the sixth national strike by members of the UK’s National Education Union (NEU) since February – and another is planned for Friday.

In addition to lessons, end-of-term events such as sports days, concerts and school trips can be disrupted.

And with more strike voting, schools are bracing for further disruptions in the new school year.

It’s been more than five months since the teachers first stepped down to the picket line in woolen hats, clutching take-home coffee between gloved hands.

They receive a 5% increase for 2022-23.

This time they’re asking for an inflation increase on top, plus extra money to make sure the salary increase doesn’t come from the school’s existing budget.

The weather may have improved since the first attack on February 1, but relations between the two sides in this dispute remain as frozen as ever.

There are no ongoing talks between the union and the Department of Education (DfE), and no clear resolution is in sight.

There has been a crisis point in recent months.

After intensive talks in March, the government offered teachers an additional one-time payment of £1,000. It is also offering a 4.3% pay increase for most teachers next year – with starting salaries as high as £30,000.

NEU, and the three other unions involved in the dispute, rejected the offer – meaning the one-time payment could now not be made.

More strikes have occurred since then.

The most recent strike, on 2 May, affected more schools than ever before – with less than half, only 45.3%, fully opening.

Some of the youth we spoke to at the time were concerned that revision classes would be affected, as they were preparing for exams. NEU said it was doing everything it could to ensure schooling was as normal as possible for the cohort of years taking exams this summer.

Two things will determine what happens next.

The first is the announcement of how much the teacher’s salary will be next year. The matter has been considered by an independent salary review body, and its recommendations are currently being assessed by the government.

We don’t know when the payment announcement will be made. If the past years are anything to go by, we can expect them to come at the end of July, when the kids are preparing to go their separate ways for summer vacation.

Another thing to watch is the outcome of the vote, which is currently taking place in all four unions.

This is the second time members of the NEU, the NASUWT teachers’ union and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) have been asked if they would be willing to go on a pay strike. Last time around, only NEU received enough votes to continue industrial action.

In addition, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) – another principal teachers’ union – also elects members, for the first time in its 150 year history. Headmasters told the BBC they were concerned about the effect of salaries on staff recruitment and retention.

With voting set to close in mid to late July, we could see a flurry of activity in the coming weeks.

The online tool Teacher Tapp quizzed thousands of primary and secondary school teachers, in both the public and private sectors, about their daily experiences in the classroom. One recent survey showed that nearly four out of 10 Grade 6 students had made a visit to their new high school booked on strike day this week.

It can get distracted.

And if enough guild members voted for further strike action, those same students could see their newly dropped Year 7 teacher fall as well.

Dr Mary Bousted, the NEU’s joint secretary-general, said Education Secretary Gillian Keegan’s “refusal to re-enter negotiations” had “united the teaching profession in its anger at governments failing to recognize the serious challenges that need to be addressed in our education system”.

The DfE has not yet responded to a request for comment, but previously said its payment offer was a “fair and reasonable offer” and the school would receive an additional £2.3 billion over the next two years.

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