Teachers in England go on strike on Thursday in a longstanding dispute over pay.
Tens of thousands of National Education Union (NEU) member teachers are estimated to be leaving schools and sixth grade colleges across England, with another day of action scheduled for Tuesday.
The “majority of schools” should restrict access to pupils or close completely because of the strikes, the NEU said.
Many secondary schools in England are expected to prioritize Year 11 and Year 13 students during the strikes as the GCSE and A-level exams are just weeks away.
The NEU has issued guidance saying it will support arrangements during the strikes that ‘provide the minimum level of teaching staff needed’ so that GCSE and A-Level students can come to the school for review work or exam practice.
On the arrangement for exam year students during the strikes, Kevin Courtney, joint secretary general of the NEU, said: “There are many places where arrangements are being made. In some places it is the members who teach, in others it is the teachers who employ the children in those days”.
He told the Palestinian Authority news agency: “Obviously, there is still an outage and we fully acknowledged that and regretted it, but we took those steps on the handouts to try and allay that concern as much as possible.” .
Pickets will be organized outside schools across England on Thursday and demonstrations will be held in Oxford, Keynsham and Dunstable.
The NEU is planning a total of five days of teacher strikes over the summer term – with three of the dates yet to be announced – after members voted overwhelmingly to reject the government’s salary offer.
Mr Courtney told the PA: “If there was any chance that other unions would vote for action in this term then we want to coordinate that.”
The government has offered teachers a one-off payment of £1,000 for the current school year (2022/23) and an average salary increase of 4.5% for staff next year following intense talks with unions of education.
Four education unions – the NEU, the teachers’ union NASUWT, the National Association of School Leaders (NAHT) and the Association of School and University Leaders (ASCL) – have rejected the salary offer.
The decision on teacher pay in England for next year has been passed to the independent pay review body, the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB).
Courtney called on ministers to engage with the unions on pay now and find an agreement for teachers rather than waiting for the STRB.
He said: “The Secretary of State is currently abdicating his responsibilities, washing his hands and saying it is up to the SRB alone.
“That doesn’t solve the problem. He does not try to avoid our strikes in this legislature and I think he is unlikely to resolve the issue with the other unions as well ”.
Schools in England could face further strikes in the autumn as the NEU re-ballots teachers’ members for further union action later this year.
Teachers in England represented by the NASUWT union will again be voted on in the event of a strike and the ASCL is expected to hold a formal vote for nationwide strike action in England for the first time in its history.
The NAHT is expected to announce whether it will review its members on possible action at the union’s annual conference in Telford on Friday.
Courtney said: “The NEU action had a very large impact, but multiple unions organizing the same group of workers, even acting on the same day, would increase that impact.
“And it’s not just the impact in schools on strike days, but it’s the impact on parents and parental opinion around the strikes. If I were the government, I would be very concerned about this.
He added: “If I were the government, the prospect of the ACL and of ourselves on the ballot, and perhaps also of other unions, and the prospect that we could act together in view of their general elections, if I were the government I would think we’d better do something to resolve the issue sooner rather than later.
NEU members went on strike across England on 1 February, 15 and 16 March and regional strikes took place between 28 February and 2 March.
During the nationwide strikes in March, DfE data suggests that 47% of schools in England were open with limited attendance and 6% were closed completely.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘While it is difficult to predict the exact impact of this week’s school strikes, there is likely to be significant localized disruption.
“School leaders will consider which approach to take for affected schools and pupils based on individual circumstances and risk assessments. We know that some secondary schools have plans to prioritize exam years.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “School leaders’ groups will do whatever they can during the strike days.
“Decisions will be made based on educational and safeguarding priorities, which in many cases will include exam-year groups and vulnerable children. The level of provision will ultimately depend on the availability of staff.
A Department of Education spokesman said: “Any strike action is extremely damaging. We have made a fair and reasonable salary offer to teachers in recognition of their hard work and commitment.
“Thanks to the additional £2 billion we are investing in our schools, school funding will reach its highest level in history next year.”