Are teachers going on strike? When and why are they striking in England, Scotland and Wales - dates explained

English and Welsh teacher unions have voted to join Scottish school staff in striking over pay and working conditions.

Most state schools across England and Wales will close across several days in February and March after the biggest teaching unions voted to strike.

This comes as Primary and Secondary school teachers in Scotland taking industrial action in a dispute over pay as three teachers’ unions planned walkouts in January and February.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), has called on school leaders to let parents know ahead of 1 February if they plan to shut their doors during strike action next week.

In England and Wales, nine out of 10 teacher members of the National Education Union (NEU) voted for strike action and the union passed the 50% ballot turnout required by law. The union has declared seven days of walkouts in February and March, but it has said any individual school will only be affected by four of the days.

More than 23,000 schools across England and Wales are set to be affected. Support staff in Wales are set to go on strike as well.

Downing Street has urged teachers not to strike and inflict “substantial damage” to children’s education. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We would continue to call on teachers not to strike given we know what substantial damage was caused to children’s education during the pandemic and it’s certainly not something we want to see repeated. We would hope they would continue to discuss with us their concerns rather than withdraw education from children.”

But why are teachers striking and what dates are they striking? Here’s what you need to know.

Members of the SSTA and NASUWT unions taking part in the first of two days of industrial action across Scotland in their ongoing pay dispute. Picture: John Devlin

Why are teachers striking? 

Some 300,000 teachers and support staff were asked to vote in the NEU ballot – and more than 127,000 teacher members and 16,000 support staff members in England and Wales backed action.

The NAHT school leaders’ union and the NASUWT teachers’ union both failed to achieve the 50% ballot turnout required by law for its members to go out on strike over pay in England.

Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint NEU general secretaries, said: “We have continually raised our concerns with successive education secretaries about teacher and support staff pay, and its funding in schools and colleges, but instead of seeking to resolve the issue they have sat on their hands.

“It is disappointing that the government prefers to talk about yet more draconian anti-strike legislation, rather than work with us to address the causes of strike action.”

The union leaders added that historic real-terms pay cuts for teachers had created an “unsustainable situation” in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, adding that staff were leaving the profession “in droves”.

England

The NEU is looking for a pay rise of 12% rather than the 5% offered so far by the government for most teachers. The unions say teachers’ pay has fallen by about 24% relative to inflation since 2010.

In July last year, the government said teachers would benefit from pay increases of between 5% and 8.9% from September 2022, after accepting the recommendations of the independent School Teachers’ Review Body for this academic year.

In England, a ballot result of support staff in schools saw a 84.13% majority vote YES on a turnout of 46.46%. This result, despite being hugely in favour of action, just missed the government’s restrictive thresholds.

Joint General-Secretary of the National Education Union Mary Bousted. Credit: Getty

Wales

Unions have been campaigning for months for a better pay deal, after rejecting the 5% increase offered by the Welsh government in November, calling it an "insult".

NEU Cymru and Association of School and College Unions Cymru previously warned they are likely to strike if the offer was not increased - something the Welsh government has refused to do.

The Welsh government’s November offer, originally recommended by the Independent Welsh Pay Review Body, increased the starting teacher salary in Wales to £28,866 and the salaries of more experienced classroom teachers to £44,450. All allowances were also uprated by 5%.

However, inflation in Wales is over 10% and anything below would constitute a real term pay cut.

A ballot result of support staff in schools saw a 88.26% majority vote YES on a turnout of 51.30%. This result passed the thresholds and support staff in Wales will be called to take action in their dispute too.

Scotland

Teachers are walking out over a dispute in pay. Three teachers’ unions planned walkouts in January and February and are calling for a pay rise in line with inflation - as the cost of living crisis continues.

The unions are calling for a fully-funded pay increase of 12% for 2022/23 after rejecting a 6.8% increase offer. However, the Scottish government said an increase for all teachers is not affordable within its fixed budget.

When are teachers striking in England, Wales and Scotland?

England and Wales

The National Education Union (NEU) said there will be seven days of strike action in February and March with the first day being 1 February. The NEU says 23,400 schools will be affected. Mr Courtney, the NEU secretary-general, told The Observer that action by its members alone would be enough to cause many schools to close - this will prompt the most widespread school shutdown in many years.

The union has said schools won’t be affected by more than four days of industrial action

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) failed to reach the 50% threshold, as did the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

The union is declaring seven days of strike action in February and March, though any individual school will only be affected by four of them. The first will be on will be on Wednesday 1 February, affecting 23,400 schools in England and Wales.

Teacher members in sixth form colleges in England will also walk out on these days in a separate but linked dispute with the Secretary of State.

The NEU Cymru union is declaring four days of strike action in February and March in Wales. The first will be on will be on Wednesday 1 February, affecting around 1,500 workplaces in Wales.

A full list of dates and locations for England and Wales:

  • Wednesday 1 February: all eligible members in England and Wales
  • Tuesday 14 February: all eligible members in England and Wales
  • Tuesday 28 February: all eligible members in the Northern, North West, Yorkshire and The Humber regions
  • Wednesday 1 March: all eligible members in the East Midlands, West Midlands, and Eastern regions
  • Thursday 2 March: all eligible members in London, South East and South West regions
  • Wednesday 15 March: all eligible members in England and Wales
  • Thursday 16 March: all eligible members in England and Wales

Scotland

Primary school teachers who are members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) will strike on Tuesday 10 January, and Secondary school teachers will walk out on Wednesday 11 January.

NASUWT members, with Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) union members striking only on 11 January.

The EIS has also organised 16 consecutive days of action from Monday 16 January, which will see teachers strike across different regions.

A full list of dates and locations:

  • Monday 16 January – Glasgow and East Lothian
  • Tuesday 17 January – Perth and Kinross and North Ayrshire
  • Wednesday 18 January – Orkney and Fife
  • Thursday 19 January – Moray and North Lanarkshire
  • Friday 20 January – Angus and East Dunbartonshire
  • Monday 23 January – East Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway
  • Tuesday 24 January – Stirling and East Renfrewshire
  • Wednesday 25 January – South Ayrshire and Edinburgh
  • Thursday 26 January – Midlothian and West Dunbartonshire
  • Friday 27 January – Renfrewshire and Falkirk
  • Monday 30 January – Aberdeenshire and Scottish Borders
  • Tuesday 31 January – Highlands and West Lothian
  • Wednesday 1 February – Clackmannanshire and Aberdeen
  • Thursday 2 February – Dundee and Argyll and Bute
  • Friday 3 February – South Lanarkshire and Western Isles
  • Monday 6 February – Inverclyde and Shetland