A leading London headteacher warned she is worried what will happen if teachers go on strike, but she also fears for the future of the profession if pay is not increased.
Three major teaching unions are set to announce the results of ballots this week, meaning teachers could be the next big public sector group to walk out.
If strike action goes ahead it is expected that most state schools across England and Wales will have to close completely for several days in February and March.
Pupils across the UK lost around a third of their learning time during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study in 2021.
Researchers at the London School of Economics and the University of Exeter said students in England missed out on 61 days. There are normally 190 days in a school year.
Clare Wagner, head of Henrietta Barnett school in Barnet, said: “Teacher pay has been far too low for many years and if we wish to retain and recruit brilliant teachers we need to pay them attractive salaries. The Government should also fund these pay rises.”
She added: “I am worried about what will happen if teachers go on strike, but I am also deeply worried about the future of the teaching profession.”
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan who was today meeting for talks with the National Education Union, has warned of the impact of industrial action on children who are already struggling to catch up on learning they lost during the pandemic.
The NEU wants a pay rise of 12 per cent rather than the 5 per cent offered by the Government for most teachers. It says teachers’ pay has fallen by about 24 per cent relative to inflation since 2010. The Government is currently refusing to offer any extra funding to cover pay rises, meaning headteachers are having to find the money from existing school budgets.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “There are no great schools without great teachers which is why we are making the highest pay awards in a generation — five per cent for experienced teachers and more for those early in their careers, including an 8.9 per cent increase to starting salary.
“We are also investing an additional £2 billion in schools next year and £2 billion the year after, taking school funding to its highest-ever level.
“After two years of disrupted education for young people, strike action is simply not a reasonable solution.”
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, welcomed the chance to meet the Education Secretary today but said only an hour had been set aside for the talks. “You cannot negotiate anything in an hour,” she said.