Teachers’ strikes: school closures in England and Wales explained

First of seven days of industrial action by members of the National Education Union begins on Wednesday

When are teachers striking and where?

Teachers in England and Wales are to strike on Wednesday in the first of seven days of industrial action by members of the National Education Union (NEU), which is the largest education union in the UK.

As well as teachers, the NEU says its members in sixth-form colleges in England, who were balloted separately, will also be striking, as will support staff in Wales. The union estimates that 23,400 schools will be affected over the seven days of action, but each school will be affected for a maximum of only four days.

The next strike action will be taken by NEU members in Wales on 14 February. On 28 February, members in the north of England, Yorkshire and Humber will go on strike, followed by a day of action on 1 March in the Midlands and east of England, and on 2 March in London, the south-east and south-west. The final two days of action on 15 and 16 March will involve all eligible NEU members in England and Wales.

Strike action is also under way in Scotland, where members of the Educational Institute of Scotland are walking out in two local authority areas a day until 6 February, followed by national strike action on 28 February and 1 March. In Northern Ireland, most teachers will walk out for half a day on 21 February.

Will schools close?

Yes, some schools will close, particularly those with high levels of NEU membership, while many more schools will close partially to groups of pupils. The government has said it wants schools to remain open where possible, especially for vulnerable children and those approaching public exams, but the final decision lies with the headteacher.

A poll of 8,200 teachers by Teacher Tapp, a daily surveying app, suggested that as many as one in seven schools could be forced to close – 14% of those who took part said their schools would be closed to all pupils, while 44% said they would be partially closed. Secondary schools are more likely to be affected than primaries – more than half of secondary teachers (53%) who took part in the survey said their school was closing for some pupils, compared with 35% in primaries, while 30% said their school was not planning closures of any kind.

What does it mean for parents?

Striking teachers are not required to give advance notice, so many schools may not have a full picture until early on Wednesday morning. Some headteachers have told parents to check first thing on Wednesday morning to see if their child can come to school. Others have already informed parents the school will be closed to most pupils, allowing them to arrange childcare, take annual leave or work from home.

Will children be taught remotely, like during the Covid lockdowns?

Striking teachers do not have to set work for strike days and will not be delivering lessons remotely. Some schools have told parents that teaching will go online, but with many staff absent due to strike action, it could be patchy.

Why are teachers striking?

NEU members are striking in pursuit of an above-inflation pay rise, funded by the government rather than out of existing school budgets. The value of teachers’ salaries has fallen over the past decade, resulting in a recruitment and retention crisis in schools. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, senior teachers have experienced a 13% real-terms drop in salaries between 2010 and 2022, equivalent to a £6,600 pay cut.

The government announced last summer that most teachers would receive a pay rise of about 5%, with starting salaries up by 8.9%, but with inflation in double digits, NEU members have rejected the offer and voted for strike action.


Sally Weale Education correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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