Teacher Strikes: What You Need To Know Ahead Of Three Days Of Walkouts

The majority of schools will be affected by the strike action, according to the National Education Union (NEU).
National Education Union strike action rally in Centenary Square on 1st February 2023 in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Mike Kemp via Getty Images
National Education Union strike action rally in Centenary Square on 1st February 2023 in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

An estimated 200,000 teachers across Scotland, England and Wales are set to go on strike this week.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said the “majority of schools” will be affected by the strike action.

“Some secondary schools will be completely closed, others will have particular year groups in and a similar pattern in lots of lots of primary schools,” he said.

Here’s what you need to know.

When and where are teachers going on strike?

  • Last week, the majority of teachers and school leaders in Northern Ireland took part in a 12-hour strike in a dispute over pay.
  • February 28 - teachers will be striking in Scotland, as well as north and north-west England and Yorkshire.
  • March 1 - teachers will be striking in the East Midlands, West Midlands and the NEU’s eastern region
  • March 2 - teachers will be striking in Wales, as well as south-east and south-west England, and London
  • March 15-16 - teachers will strike across England and Wales.

Why are they striking?

Teachers are striking because of a pay dispute.

Pay for experienced teachers has fallen by one fifth in real terms since 2010, according to the NEU.

On top of this, it’s not unheard of for them to work long hours and do overtime – manning breakfast clubs and other extra curricular clubs – despite poor pay.

Understandably, more teachers are leaving the profession. This is then, in turn, impacting children and their education.

Like the childcare sector, the teaching sector is now facing a crisis in recruitment and retention.

NEU suggests that even when there is a teacher in the classroom, increasingly they are not qualified in the subject they are teaching.

The cost of living crisis we find ourselves in – with soaring inflation and energy bills – combined with low pay, means teachers are struggling even more to afford to live.

One teacher, from West Bromwich, said they’d been teaching for 20 years. She’s a single mum with a mortgage and is particularly worried about mortgage rate increases, which she won’t be able to afford.

“It has got to the stage where I feel I can’t afford to do my job any more,” she said. “This makes me sad as I love my job, I love my school, I feel like I can make a real difference.

“If we were paid in line with real-time inflation we would not be losing so many amazing teachers and support staff from the profession. We deserve better.”

What do teachers want?

They are asking for an inflation-plus pay increase – in other words, a pay rise of about 12%.

What is the government doing?

Various offers are on the table. Good Morning Britain (GMB) reported that in England they’ve been offered a pay rise of 3%, while in Scotland they’ve been offered a pay increase of 5.5-6%.

Last week, education secretary Gillian Keegan invited the teaching unions to formal talks on pay, conditions and reform on the condition that strikes were suspended.

At the time, the NEU urged Keegan to drop preconditions to talks and instead make a “serious” offer on pay to avert national walkouts.

In a statement on February 27, Keegan said: “As a government, we have made a serious offer to the leaders of the National Education Union and Royal College of Nursing: pause this week’s strikes, get round the table and talk about pay, conditions and reforms.

“It is hugely disappointing the NEU has thus far refused this serious offer and has not joined the Royal College of Nursing in calling off strikes.

“Instead of sitting round a table discussing pay, the NEU will once again cause disruption for children and families.

“Children deserve to be in school, and further strike action is simply unforgivable, especially after everything children have been through because of the pandemic.”

Jenny Matthews via Getty Images

What do the strikes mean for parents?

As a result of the strikes, teachers will not go into work meaning classes will be disrupted for children. This will mean parents will have to sort alternative childcare arrangements or work from home, while looking after their children.

Legally, teachers don’t have to let their employers know if they plan to walk out, which could mean some parents find out their schools are impacted very last minute. As a result, it’s worth having plans in place in case this does happen.

If you can’t source alternative childcare, you have the right to take reasonable time off work in certain circumstances, such as dealing with an unexpected problem or emergency, according to Citizens Advice.

However this may be paid or unpaid, so you need to check your contract.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said to parents: “We really do sincerely apologise for the disruption to their children’s education on our strike days, and to the disruption to their working lives and home lives.

“But we do believe we’re taking action with a moral purpose of trying to get the Government to invest in their children’s education.”