Will there be more teachers’ strikes? Unions pause action amid government talks

The majority of NEU members supported strike action.  (Carl Court / Getty Images)
The majority of NEU members supported strike action. (Carl Court / Getty Images)

Teachersunions and the government are going through “intensive” talks in an attempt to end a dispute over pay that saw strike action across several days in March.

The National Education Union said while talks were ongoing, it would not announce further strike dates for the next two weeks.

The Department for Education said in a statement: “In order for talks to begin and, we hope, reach a successful conclusion, the NEU has confirmed it will create a period of calm for two weeks during which time they have said no further strike dates will be announced.”

About 200,000 teachers in England and Wales took part in three consecutive days of industrial action to push for a fully funded, above-inflation wage increase.

The decision to walk out came after nine out of 10 teacher members voted for industrial action in January.

When are teachers going on strike?

Teachers went on strike in March, and the EIS and two other unions originally said they would hold 20 strikes between March 13 and April 21.

Data released by the Department for Education showed 47 per cent of all schools in England were open during strikes, but restricting attendance, while six per cent were fully closed over two days.

However, the unions will not announce further strike days while talks are ongoing. If the talks fail, more industrial action could be announced.

The Government says in some schools there would be little or no impact from strike action, but that in others there may be changes to the way they operate.

It added that schools will usually let parents know how they are being affected but you should contact your child’s school if you are unsure. Teachers are not obliged to let their school know if they are striking beforehand.

Why did teachers go on strike?

Teachers are striking because of a dispute over pay. NEU members want a pay rise of 12 per cent, but the Government offered an increase of only five per cent.

The union argues that teachers’ pay has fallen by 24 per cent since 2010, due to inflation.

The Government is also refusing to provide funding to cover the pay rises. But the union said it would consider a pay rise of nine per cent should the Government fully fund it.

The NAHT also wants pay increases, as well as progress on school funding, workloads, and recruitment and retention processes.

What has the Government said?

A Department for Education spokesperson 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.”

What have teachers’ unions said?

Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretaries of the NEU, said: “This is not about a pay rise but correcting historic real-terms pay cuts.

“Teachers have lost 23 per cent in real terms since 2010, and support staff 27 per cent over the same period. The average 5 per cent pay rise for teachers this year is some 7 per cent behind inflation. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, that is an unsustainable situation.

“We regret having to take strike action, and are willing to enter into negotiations at any time, any place, but this situation cannot go on.”