Teachers urged not to strike to avoid ‘damage’ to children’s education

Teachers should not strike and inflict “substantial damage” to children’s education, Downing Street has urged.

The plea comes as the results of ballots for strikes by two teaching unions are due to be announced.

One of the leaders of the largest education unions in the UK, the National Education Union (NEU), has said she believes the group will have reached the threshold required for strike action.

Both the NEU and school leaders’ union NAHT are set to announce on Monday whether there is enough support for walkouts in England and Wales.

Ahead of the strike ballot results, 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.”

Last week, a ballot of members of the NASUWT teachers’ union failed to reach the 50% turnout threshold, although nine in 10 of those who did vote backed strikes.

But Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, believes their union will reach the threshold.

She told Sky News on Monday: “From our own internal polling, I think that we will meet the threshold but I can’t be sure.”

Dr Bousted added that it would be “highly unlikely” that strike action would take place during the exam period.

Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, leaving the Department for Education in London (PA)
Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, leaving the Department for Education in London (PA)

The NEU will have to give two weeks’ notice of any industrial action.

Speaking to the PA news agency last week, Dr Bousted said the strike days were likely to be in “February and March” if the ballot was successful.

The wave of industrial action which has swept across the country for months will continue this week.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) across England will walk out on Wednesday and Thursday and the union has warned that if progress is not made in negotiations by the end of January the next set of strikes will include all eligible members in England for the first time.

The Government continues to insist that pay claims are unaffordable and is sticking to its belief that wage rises should be decided by pay review bodies.

GMB leaders will also meet on Monday to decide whether to call more strikes among their ambulance members because of the lack of progress in talks.

Any decision is likely to be announced later in the week.