25 January, 2023
On the 16th of January 2023, the National Education Union (NEU), being one of the trade unions representing the teaching profession, announced 9 out of 10 of its members voted to strike after taking part in a ballot.
According to the NEU teachers are going to strike over a mix of low play and excessive workload.
Union officials have declared that thousands of schools in England and Wales will close in February because of the NEU's members vote to strike. The members of the NEU will strike to demand a fully funded, above inflation wage increase after the Government confirmed last summer that starting salaries would increase by 8.9%, while most teachers would receive pay increases of approximately 5%. The NEU claims that teachers' pay has fallen by 24% since 2010 due to inflation.
The Education Secretary and officials from the Department for Education (DfE) continue to meet with the trade unions to try to prevent strike action and are also working to support schools and their leaders to avoid children missing education and causing disruption to parents and families.
In the event of strike action, whoever manages the school is expected to take all reasonable steps to keep the school open for as many pupils as possible. The DfE have produced updated guidance to assist those schools effected do this and to minimise disruption to children and families at Handling strike action in schools (you can find this document here).
In some schools there may be little or no impact from teachers taking strike action but for others it may require that changes are made to the way they operate to enable the school to stay open and carry on as normal.
If schools effected by the strike action need to restrict attendance, those schools must prioritise vulnerable children, children of critical workers and pupils who are due to take public examinations (like GCSEs) and other formal assessments when considering how to restrict attendance. Where schools are not able to provide face-to-face education for all pupils, they encourage them to provide remote education to ensure every child has access to learning.
On the 10th January 2023, the government introduced the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels Bill) which requires that certain public services are to deliver minimum levels of service during strikes. This would restrict trade union members' right to strike. Trade Unions will have to make sure some staff do not walk out on strike days to provide and ensure a minimum service to the public.
Initially the first consultation will relate to fire, ambulance, and rail services, but there is the potential to extend it to other sectors, including the education sector and, therefore, schools. The Government has made it clear that it hopes it does not have to use these powers for the education sector, but it will be able to if required.
The Government will decide what level of service is required for the public and if Trade Unions do not comply, they can be sued. Also, if staff are asked to go into work and refuse, they can be dismissed.
This bill is currently at the Committee Stage in the House of Commons and is yet to go the House of Lords. So, even though it is not yet confirmed legislation, it is being pushed through by the Government to try and deal with and cope with the recent increase in strike action across service sectors.
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