Teacher strikes

Teacher strike will go ahead after DfE talks fail

Poll suggests over 60% of schools face partial or full closure on Wednesday in response to walkouts

Poll suggests over 60% of schools face partial or full closure on Wednesday in response to walkouts

A strike by teachers in the National Education Union will go ahead on Wednesday after last-ditch talks with the government yielded no result, its leadership has said.

Union bosses held a meeting with the education secretary Gillian Keegan this afternoon, but confirmed that once again no improved pay or funding offer was put forward.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, told Schools Week the meeting had been the government’s last opportunity to avoid Wednesday’s national walkout, adding: “I’m afraid the strike will be going ahead”. 

“There was no offer put on the table. We just talked about things we talked about before. We impressed upon the secretary of state that we are very serious about negotiating.

“We do want a deal. But there have to be serious negotiations to address the issues our members are raising.”

It comes as new polling suggested over 60 per cent of schools could close partially or fully on Wednesday when teachers walk out.

In response to a poll by Teacher Tapp this week, 49 per cent of respondents said their school was planning to close to some pupils, while 14 per cent said they would close to all pupils.

Just over half of secondary teachers said their schools would close to some pupils, compared to 35 per cent at primary. London schools were also more likely to be disrupted.

Overall, twenty-four per cent of teachers said their school would not close, while 8 per cent said they did not know yet.

Keegan ‘squandered’ chance to avert strike

In a joint statement, Bousted and fellow joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said Keegan “squandered an opportunity to avoid strike action” at today’s meeting

“The government has been unwilling to seriously engage with the causes of strike action.”

It means the first of six days of strike action planned throughout February and March will go ahead on Wednesday.

It comes after the NEU confirmed it had registered 38,000 new members since announcing the outcome of its strike ballot on January 16.

New members are eligible to join the strike even if they were not a member during the ballot. Around 300,000 teachers in England and Wales were balloted for strike action.

But schools won’t get updated figures from the NEU for the number of staff in their schools who could walk out.

The union said it was “only required to provide to employers the number of members in any workplace who we are intending to call to take action at the time we serve the statutory notice of action”.

“Eligible teacher members in England…can join the NEU up to and including the day of strike and take part in the action. Therefore, in many schools the number of members will now be higher than the number of members listed on the statutory notices sent to employers.”

Further talks planned

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said meeting was “unproductive”.

“This was unsurprising as the secretary of state was unable to make any offer on the eve of industrial action. That being said, there is an agreement that further talks will take place and we continue to hope a resolution can be found.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL school leaders’ union, who also joined the meeting, said parents “will have been looking for the government to avert the planned strike on Wednesday”.

“Instead, the government continues to talk around the issues rather than putting anything on the table which allows for any meaningful negotiation. It is deeply disappointing.”

He said Keegan was “clearly constrained” in what she can do by wider government, “even though there is overwhelming evidence that we have a full-blown teacher recruitment and retention crisis”.

“We are sorry to report that there is therefore no resolution to the dispute and the strike is set to go ahead.”

The next date of NEU strike action in England is scheduled for February 28, and Barton said the government “simply must resolve this matter through meaningful negotiation between now and then”.

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