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Former teacher says strikers have ‘got their audience wrong’ after childcare woe

A former teacher who says he will lose £250 in earnings in order to look after his two children when teachers go on strike has said the educators withdrawing their labour have “got their audience completely wrong”.

Paul Long, in his forties, from near Birmingham, is a full-time self-employed education consultant with two children both of primary school age. His wife works in the NHS and he formerly worked as a computing teacher.

Mr Long said he will need to take the day off on Wednesday to look after his two primary school-age children, and he foresees a loss in his earnings of around £250.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) speaks to the media outside the Department of Education in London, before last-ditch talks with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) speaks to the media before talks with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“Both our children’s teachers are striking in a junior school which means both of them need childcare,” Mr Long told the PA news agency.

“I will have to not work. I will have to take an unplanned day off work and that means that the money I would’ve earned on that day … won’t be made, and that’s going to be in the region of about £250.

“But to put this in context that’s not £250 that goes into my pocket. From all of that I’ve got to pay my own holiday pay like any self-employed person does, I have to pay my own sick pay.

“Everybody plans their work time and their childcare around the school dates. And when we’ve planned all of that, and then you get a sudden change, then it becomes a problem.

“A school closes for a snow day because it’s unsafe, that’s fine, we’ve got to take that on the chin – this is a school closing because a national union has chosen to take a strike, and it’s having a big financial impact on us for three Wednesdays.”

Former teacher Paul Long said he will have to take a day off work to look after his children due to the teacher strike
Former teacher Paul Long said he will have to take a day off work to look after his children due to the teacher strike (Paul Long/PA)

Teachers in England and Wales who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) will strike, with more than 23,000 schools expected to be affected.

The Department for Education has offered a 5% pay rise to most teachers for the current school year, but the NEU is demanding a fully funded above-inflation pay rise for teachers.

Support staff in Wales, who are members of the NEU, will also take part in the action.

Concerns have been raised about parents finding childcare during the strikes, with the director of policy at the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) Jonathan Broadbery telling PA that early years settings “might not be able to take all the children that they planned to” when teachers strike.

Speaking about the potential impact on early years settings, Mr Broadbery said: “We know that the vast majority of the workforce in nurseries and early years is female – and if there are problems with children not being able to go to school, research over Covid shows it maybe falls to the working mums rather than working dads to look after the children who can’t go to school.”

Mr Long said he has “sympathy” with teachers, saying “they have got a genuine cause” – but he did not believe striking was the answer.

“Strikes don’t hit government. As far as the government’s concerned it’ll be here one day, it’ll be yesterday’s news the next day,” he said.

“But the strikes hit the parents who have now got to take this day off work.

“I have sympathy with (the teachers’) cause … and I think that’s really important to say, because they have got a genuine cause, there are genuine issues with the education system that need addressing.

“What I disagree with is the way that they’re going about it through strike action rather than exploring alternative forms of industrial action which would be more effective and would be targeted at the government rather than targeting parents.

“They’ve got their audience completely wrong.”