Schools battle to stay open for students ahead of exams as strikes continue

·2-min read
Teachers on the picket line (PA Wire)
Teachers on the picket line (PA Wire)

Schools are battling to remain open for A-level and GCSE students as teachers walked out in the fifth day of national strike action this year.

The teachers’ strike comes directly after a walkout by nurses ended.

Headteachers were on Tuesday prioritising opening schools for children who face exams in the coming weeks, as well as vulnerable pupils and key workers’ children. It means thousands of schools were able to partially open.

The National Education Union, whose members are striking, has encouraged headteachers to draw up local agreements with teachers to keep classes open for pupils taking exams.

It issued guidance saying it will support arrangements for headteachers to provide the “minimum level of teaching staff needed” so GCSE and A-level students can attend school for revision activities or exam practice. More than 900,000 children, whose education has already been disrupted by Covid, are set to take A-levels and GCSEs beginning on May 15.

Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, said: “The NEU regrets any disruption to education, and has put in place measures to ensure GCSE and A-level students have a full programme on those days”

But Dr Bousted told The Daily Telegraph she could not rule out disruption to exam students, adding: “I cannot say there won’t be any disruption. All I can say is that we are absolutely aiming to minimise disruption.”

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

“The other half is self-study,” he continued. “That is disruption on a huge scale. 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.

“We don’t want to disrupt education, we apologise for the disruption that is caused.”

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told LBC a “good offer” had been made to teachers over pay and workload reduction. He said: “The best way of minimising disruption to students is for those teachers to be in the classrooms.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “We have made a fair and reasonable teacher pay offer to the unions, which recognises teachers’ hard work and commitment as well as delivering an additional £2 billion in funding for schools, which they asked for.”