Schools face further disruption as teachers walk out across England in the latest wave of strike action over pay.
Members of the National Education Union (NEU) are taking action on Friday, with ministers being warned that industrial unrest could escalate in the autumn term unless there is movement on teachers’ salaries.
The Department for Education said the action would cause disruption to pupils and parents and result in the cancellation of children’s end-of-term events.
It is the second day of action this week, following Wednesday’s strike which resulted in many schools being either fully closed or restricted access to certain groups of pupils.
This Govt has totally failed to acknowledge the crisis sweeping through education. The majority of schools will not be able to afford even a 4.5% pay rise without making cuts.
— National Education Union (@NEUnion) July 6, 2023
The Government offered teachers a £1,000 one-off payment for the current school year (2022/23) and an average 4.5% rise for staff next year after intensive talks with the education unions.
But all four education unions involved in the dispute rejected the offer, and the decision on teachers’ pay in England for next year has been passed to the independent School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB).
The NEU accused the Government of sitting on that pay review body’s report, which it believes recommends a 6.5% increase.
The union called on Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to “start listening and start negotiations”.
NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “No teacher wants to be taking strike action and this week’s strike action should not have been necessary.
“The responsibility for it lies at the door of the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary who continue to refuse to re-enter negotiations with education unions to reach a settlement on a fully funded pay increase for teachers.”
He added: “If left unaddressed this action will only escalate in the autumn.
“Four education unions are now balloting for action in the September term. This should speak volumes to Government.
“Far from backing down, the stony silence from the Education Secretary has united the profession as never before.
“It is high time that the Prime Minister recognised that if he wants to have an education system that delivers the very best for the children and young people of this country his Government needs to start listening and start negotiations.”
The Government is following a policy of public pay restraint as part of a strategy to curb inflation, which has led to a series of disputes with workers.
The Department for Education (DfE) insisted a “fair and reasonable” pay offer had been made to the unions.
A DfE spokesman said: “This strike action will see the cancellation of end of term events and important transition days to secondary schools, impacting children and causing more disruption for parents.”
The DfE said it “hugely” valued the work of teachers and had listened to demands for a £2 billion increase in schools funding.
On pay, the spokesman said: “As part of the normal process, the independent School Teachers’ Review Body has submitted its recommendations to Government on teacher pay for 2023/24.
“We will be considering the recommendations and will publish our response in the usual way.”