Teachers in England and Wales vote to strike in February and March in row over pay

The first national strike will take place in February and will affect 23,400 schools in England and Wales, Sarah Corker reports

Teachers in England and Wales are to strike for seven days in February and March in a row over pay.

Teaching members of the National Education Union (NEU) in England and Wales, and support staff in Wales, have voted overwhelmingly to strike to correct "historic real-terms pay cuts", the union said.

The Department for Education (DfE) has offered a 5% pay rise to most teachers for the current school year, but the NEU is demanding a fully-funded above inflation pay rise for teachers.

While the union is declaring a pattern of seven days of strike action over the next two months, individual school will only be affected by four of them as it will be regionally split.

The first national strike will take place on Wednesday 1 February and will affect 23,400 schools in England and Wales. The penultimate day of strike action will coincide with the Budget.

Teachers in England and Wales have voted to strike in February and March in row over pay. Credit: ITV News

The union said teachers have lost 23% in real-terms since 2010, and support staff 27% over the same period.

"The average 5% pay rise for teachers this year is some 7% behind inflation. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, that is an unsustainable situation," Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union said.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union says teachers have lost nearly a quarter of their pay since 2010 and warned of a "workforce crisis" in schools

School leaders in Wales are also set to take industrial action over pay and funding, but headteachers in England will not stage walkouts after the National Association of Head Teachers union ballot turnout failed to meet the legal threshold.

The NAHT said it will consider rerunning its industrial action ballot in England due to postal disruption.

Teacher members in sixth form colleges in England, who have already been balloted and taken strike action in recent months, will also take action on these days in a separate dispute.

Dr Bousted told ITV News that nearly all schools in England and Wales will be affected to some extent.

The DfE said agency staff and volunteers could be used to cover classes on strike days, with schools expected to remain open where possible.

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Remote learning was also an option for schools which have to restrict attendance, the DfE said.

It said children entitled to free school meals who are being educated remotely in such instances should be provided with a “good quality lunch parcel”.

Many schools will close entirely, while others will shut partially on strike days, she said.

"The ballot is a result of failure by the Secretary of State in England and the employers in Wales to ensure enough money is available to pay a fully-funded increase in pay for teachers which at least matches inflation, and which begins to restore lost pay," the NEU said.

Support staff in Wales also voted to strike.

The NEU said they had met with the education secretary, Gillian Keegan, but that there had been "no concrete proposals on teacher or support staff pay were put forward".

Ms Keegan said a vote for strike action by teachers is "disappointing" and "will have a damaging impact on pupils' education and wellbeing".

"Talks with union leaders are ongoing and any strike action from one union will have a damaging impact on pupils' education and wellbeing, particularly following the disruption experienced over the past two years," the education secretary said. "We have already met the unions' request for an additional £2 billion in school funding, which will take real-terms spending on schools to its highest level in history."

In England, 90.44% of teacher members voted to strike on a turnout of 53.27%. In Wales a 92.28% majority voted to take industrial action on a turnout of 58.07%.

When will the strike days take place?

  • Wednesday 1 February 2023: all eligible NEU members in England and Wales.

  • Tuesday 14 February 2023: all eligible members in Wales.

  • Tuesday 28 February 2023: all eligible members in the following English regions: Northern, North West, Yorkshire & The Humber.

  • Wednesday 1 March 2023: all eligible members in the following English regions: East Midlands, West Midlands, Eastern.

  • Thursday 2 March 2023: all eligible members in the following English regions: London, South East, South West.

  • Wednesday 15 March 2023: all eligible members in England and Wales.

  • Thursday 16 March 2023: all eligible members in England and Wales. 

Dr Bousted told ITV News: "We need the government to acknowledge that teachers cannot have their pay held down in the way it's been held down for the last 12 years.

"Teachers have seen one of the lowest pay rises of all the professional groups.

"Teachers have lost nearly a quarter of their pay in real-terms since 2010.

"We have a teacher recruitment crisis. Recruitment to teacher training is 23% down this year than it was last year.

"Government have recruited only just over half of the secondary school teachers they need.

"Teachers are leaving the profession in droves - a third within five years, 40% within 10 years."

She acknowledged the strikes would be disruptive for students, the current "workforce crisis" meant that pupils were doing GCSEs and A Levels without qualified teachers to teach them.

"Life in schools and the access to qualified teachers - qualified in the subjects they're teaching - for students and young people is precarious in so many schools.

"And there comes a time when the profession has to stand up and make that clear to the government. And I'm sure parents will recognise the picture I'm painting."

Teachers on Isle of Man formed a picket line outside St Ninian's High School in Douglas. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

On Monday, Ms Keegan told the Commons that she plans to meet with education union leaders later this week. 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."

 A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We understand and respect the feelings expressed in these ballots for industrial action today.

"The minister for education and Welsh language will be meeting with teaching and headteacher unions later this week to discuss the outcome of ballots." Last week, schools across Scotland were shut as members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), NASUWT, Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) and AHDS took strike action. Schoolchildren in Scotland will miss more lessons this week as members of the EIS are beginning 16 days of rolling strike action on Monday.