Teacher strike: School support staff walk out in Wales claiming student safety is at risk

Staff on the picket at Wales' biggest special school say support staff and teachers need a "resolution" on pay in order to keep students safe

Thousands of schools across Wales are closed again today as teachers strike for the second time in a long-running dispute over pay.

Thursday's walkout was originally scheduled for 14 February, but was postponed while the National Education Union considered a fresh pay offer from the Welsh Government.

The Education Minister had offered an additional 1.5% added to teachers' pay, on top of the 5% already promised, plus an additional 1.5% lump-sum – but no extra offer was made for support staff.

Teachers picketing outside the Senedd told ITV Wales that they believe the role of support staff in schools is important for children's safety and wellbeing.

"We've got lots leaving the profession, we've got lots using food banks to keep surviving," one teacher said.

She continued: "We're in a special school, lots of the support staff we use to really support our children and to keep them safe, and without their pay, without them, our kinds of schools would collapse."

Following a meeting of Welsh representatives, the NEU had rejected the Welsh Government's latest pay offer, saying it fell "short of our members expectations and needs."

The Welsh Government said the latest offer on the table is "a strong one".

Strike action was rescheduled for 2 March, with further strikes expected on Wednesday 15 March and Thursday 16 March 2023.

The NEU has until 17 March to formally accept or reject the new pay offer.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, told ITV Wales that children's education is suffering as a result of a retention crisis in teaching

A Welsh Government spokesperson said, although it recognises "the excellent work" of its education workforce, the government is operating in "challenging financial constraints."

They said it had written to unions on Friday also setting out a comprehensive offer on workload.Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister, Laura Anne Jones MS, said she was "disappointed" that no agreement has been reached yet.

She said: “Parents and carers will once more have the stress of making difficult childcare arrangements and in many cases will have to uproot their work schedules.

“The Labour Government desperately need to get around the table and sort this out as soon as possible to avert strike action, as this situation of constant strikes and missing of school days is not ok, after so much schooling has already been missed during lockdowns.”

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