Schools in south England and Wales face disruption as teachers strike

It is the third day of strike action. Credit: PA

Teachers in Wales and south England are striking on Thursday in a long-running dispute over pay.

It is the third day of walkouts by National Education Union (NEU) members after teacher strikes took place in northern England on Tuesday and the Midlands and eastern regions of England on Wednesday.

An estimated 200,000 teaching staff will walkout across the three days of action this week, with the “majority of schools” expected to either restrict access to pupils or fully close.

A poll by Ipsos suggests that three in five (60%) parents and guardians back teachers taking strike action.

However, around 43% are worried about their children catching up on work missed because of the walkouts.

Credit: PA Graphics

Picket lines will be mounted outside schools in London, the south east and south west of England on Thursday as well as Wales, and rallies are due to be held in Cardiff, Chichester, Bristol and Plymouth.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “While no teacher wants to be on strike action we are grateful for the support of parents, and do not take it for granted.

“Many understand first-hand the issues faced by schools and colleges and their children’s teachers.

“They need no persuasion that there is disruption every day of the school year, thanks to the government’s poor decision-making and short-sighted policies on education.”

Earlier this week, Gillian Keegan said she made a 'serious' pay offer to unions and hoped 'disappointing' strikes could be paused while discussions continue

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan invited the teaching unions to “formal talks on pay, conditions and reform” on the condition that this week’s walkouts were suspended.

Ms Keegan has called the union’s decision not to suspend the regional strikes “hugely disappointing”.

The Welsh Government also insists their pay offer, which teachers rejected, is the equivalent of an 8% pay rise is “a strong one” in the context of a reducing budget.

Further national strikes by NEU members in England and Wales are planned for March 15 and 16.

Speaking on the third day of regional strikes this week, Dr Bousted said: “We urge Gillian Keegan to start negotiating with the profession to ensure we have a resolution for the sake of teachers and children’s education.

“The government’s continued stonewalling of talks will not improve their standing among parents and the general public.

“We need to see a substantive offer that will address the issues which are eroding this essential public service.”

Members of the National Education Union during a rally Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “This week’s rolling series of strikes is posing further challenges for school leaders.

“While they will draw on their experiences from last month’s industrial action, in many cases they will not know the exact number of staff taking part in the strike until the day itself.

“Leaders have been planning provision for students according to expected staffing levels and in many cases this will translate to onsite provision for vulnerable pupils, and as many year groups as can be safely accommodated, with remote learning for others.

“While they are managing the situation as best they can, there will inevitably be disruption to education.”

He added: “The government must reconvene talks with unions as soon as possible and make a serious offer that addresses the long-running concerns over pay and conditions that have resulted in a recruitment and retention crisis in education.

“Further delay risks further strikes and further disruption to education that simply cannot be afforded.”

Meanwhile, Amazon workers at one of the company’s warehouses in Coventry will go on strike again on Thursday as the wave of industrial action continues to sweep the UK.

The GMB said more than 350 staff at the centre were expected to take action in the pay dispute.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.