Teacher strikes 2023: NEU says it has discussed coordinated action as teachers walk out again

Schools in England could face further walkouts in the autumn as the NEU will re-ballot its teacher members on further industrial action later this year.

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Teaching unions have discussed coordinating strike action, the National Education Union said, as the second teacher strike in a week started today (2 May).

Tens of thousands of teachers are striking with, schools in England expected to restrict access to pupils as opposed to fully closing. Many secondary schools are expected to prioritise Year 11 and Year 13 students during the strikes as GCSE and A-level exams are weeks away.

Members of the NEU caused schools and sixth form colleges to shut last week, in another day of action. And the union had said it has discussed co-ordinating strike action with other teaching unions in the autumn.

The union is set to announce three more dates of strike action on 18 May, after members overwhelmingly rejected the government’s pay offer. The NEU has issued guidance which says it will support arrangements during the strikes that “provide the minimum level of teaching staff needed” so GCSE and A-level students can attend school for revision activities or exam practice.

On the provision for exam-year students during the walkouts, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “There’s lots of places where arrangements are being made. In some places it’s members teaching, in others it is teachers setting work for the children on those days. Obviously, there is still disruption and we’ve fully acknowledged that and regret it, but we’ve taken those steps on the dispensations to try and assuage that concern as much as possible.”

Accused of destroying the “hopes and dreams” of the cohort of students sitting their GCSEs and A-levels, Courtney told LBC about an A-level physics class in which students are taught for only half of the timetabled lessons.

“The aim of our industrial action is not disruption but it is to make a point that by sacrificing our salaries on these days, by getting parents’ attention, getting politicians’ attention, then hoping the parents will contact their MPs, that’s why we’re doing it,” he said.

Teachers are striking again. Credit: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty ImagesTeachers are striking again. Credit: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images
Teachers are striking again. Credit: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

The government offered teachers a £1,000 one-off payment for the current school year (2022/23) and an average 4.5% pay rise for staff next year following intensive talks with the education unions. Four education unions – the NEU, the NASUWT teaching union, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) – have rejected the pay offer.

The decision on teachers’ pay in England for next year has been passed to the independent pay review body, the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB).

The ASCL will ballot for strike action for the first time in the union’s history, while teachers by the NASUWT union will be re-balloted. The NAHT is expected to announce whether they will re-ballot their members over possible action at the union’s annual conference in Telford on Friday.

Courtney called on ministers to engage with the unions, while his co-leader Dr Mary Bousted said there was “radio silence” from government. Courtney said: “The Secretary of State is currently just abdicating her responsibilities, washing her hands of it and saying it’s just up to the STRB.

“That doesn’t resolve the issue. It doesn’t attempt to avoid our strikes this term and I think it’s unlikely to resolve the issue with the other unions as well.”

He warned that strike action could be co-ordinated if other teaching unions also voted to strike, and said he had spoken to other unions about this. Courtney added: “The NEU action has had a very big impact, but more unions organising the same group of workers, also taking action on the same day, would increase that impact. And it’s not just impact in schools on the strike days, but it’s the impact on parents and parental opinion around the strikes. If I was government, I’d be very worried about that.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Any strike action is hugely damaging. We have made a fair and reasonable pay offer to teachers recognising their hard work and commitment. Thanks to the further £2 billion we are investing in our schools, next year, school funding will be at its highest level in history.”

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