Families face disruption as teachers in England schools stage fresh strikes over pay

ITV News Social Affairs Correspondent Stacey Foster reports from Leicester as teachers go on strike again

Children and parents face more disruption on Wednesday as teachers in England go on strike again in a long-running dispute over pay.

Sports days, school trips and transition days for pupils are set to be disrupted as a result of the walkouts by teacher members of the National Education Union (NEU), with another day of action planned for Friday.

Picket lines will be mounted outside schools and sixth-form colleges across England, and striking teachers will march in Westminster, in London, before taking part in a rally in Parliament Square, on Wednesday afternoon.

The strike is the seventh day individual schools in England have faced walkouts by NEU teacher members this year.

Thousands of NEU members took part in Wednesday's march through Westminster. Credit: PA

Education union leaders have warned that further strike action in the autumn term is likely if the ongoing pay dispute remains unresolved.

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 earlier this year.

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).

There are fears that pupils could miss out on end-of-year activities - including concerts, school trips, sports days and opportunities to meet new classmates - during the two strike days this week.

Health Minister Maria Caulfield told reporters that "striking isn't the answer", insisting the only way the pay dispute will be resolved is "through discussions".

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

She urged union bosses to use the summer to re-enter negotiations with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.

But Labour's shadow health secretary Wes Streeting hit out at the government, saying he was "appalled" at the disruption it was inflicting by not treating teachers with the "respect they deserve".

He said: "I am appalled by the extent of the misery that is being inflicted on pupils, on parents and in the NHS on patients as a result of an unprecedented wave of strike action.

"And why? Because this is a government that doesn't treat teachers, doctors [and] nurses with the respect they deserve."

A poll by Teacher Tapp, of 6,952 teachers in England on June 19, found that only a third said there were no transition days, trips, sports days, concerts or performances, or work experience placements scheduled for the strike dates.

Wes Streeting told reporters that he was 'appalled by the extent of the misery that is being inflicted on pupils'

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: "Teachers do not want to strike. They want to be doing what they do best - teaching and supporting their pupils.

"We regret the disruption caused to education by our strikes and we support the rearrangement of transition days where possible - as some local authorities such as Birmingham, Coventry and Warwickshire have confirmed.

"We grant exemptions to members involved in school trips that cannot be rearranged.

"However, the disruption to children and young people's education occurs daily due to the running down of our education service by government. This cannot go on."

The NEU - alongside the NASUWT teaching union, the NAHT school leaders' union and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) - are currently balloting their members in England to take action in the autumn.

Dr Bousted added: "Even at this late stage, Gillian Keegan has it in her power to stop the strike action.

"She could restart talks with the education unions, publish the STRB report and its pay recommendations and fully fund a decent pay rise that begins to address the recruitment and retention crisis."

Members of the NEU went on strike across England on February 1, March 15 and 16, April 27 and May 2, while regional walkouts took place between February 28 and March 2.

During the most recent strikes on May 2, Department for Education (DfE) data suggested that 50% of state schools in England were open, but restricted attendance and 5% were fully closed.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "This week's strikes are a problem of the government's making through its neglect of education and refusal to resume formal negotiations with unions."

On Tuesday, education union leaders called on the Ms Keegan to urgently publish the STRB's pay recommendation as they warned the hold-up is causing "anxiety" in schools and "frustrating headteachers".

A DfE spokesperson said: "Any strike action is hugely damaging. We have made a fair and reasonable pay offer to teachers, recognising their incredible work and commitment.

"Thousands of schools received significant additional funding as part of the extra £2 billion of investment we are providing both this year and next.

"As a result, school funding will be at its highest level in history next year, as measured by the IFS [Institute for Fiscal Studies]."

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