Tens of thousands of teachers in England and Wales will start a three-day strike today this week in the longstanding dispute over pay.
Teachers will leave the north of England on Tuesday and most schools are expected to restrict access to some pupils or close entirely, the National Education Union (NEU) said.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan called the strike ‘unforgivable’, adding that children deserve to be in class, especially after the pandemic.
NEU member teachers are scheduled to strike in the midlands and east of England on Wednesday, with more strikes taking place in Wales and the south of England on Thursday.
Kevin Courtney, NEU’s assistant general secretary, told the PA news agency: “I think over the three days we’ll have 200,000 members on strike.”
Teachers will march across the north of England on Tuesday; in the photo, the teachers are on strike last month
Teachers gathered to demonstrate as they continued their strike demanding higher wages and better working conditions last month.
The country’s largest education union has had 50,000 new registrations since the strikes were announced six weeks ago, he added.
Speaking ahead of the strikes in the north of England, Courtney said: ‘I think most schools will be affected by the dispute. Some of them with total closures and many more with partial closures.
“Some high schools will be completely closed, others will have particular year groups, and a similar pattern in many elementary schools.”
Picket lines will be set up outside schools in regions including the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber on Tuesday, with rallies taking place in Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.
Some parents will be forced to take time off work or arrange alternative childcare, as a result of three-day regional strikes this week.
In a message to parents, Courtney said: “We really sincerely apologize for the disruption to your children’s education on our strike days and for the disruption to your work and family life.”
“But we do believe that we are taking steps for the moral purpose of trying to get the government to invest in their children’s education.”
Last week, Ms Keegan invited the teachers’ unions to “formal talks on pay, conditions and reform” on the condition that the NEU strikes be called off.
Kevin Courtney, NEU’s assistant general secretary, said: “I think over the three days we’ll have 200,000 members on strike.”
It is expected that most of the schools will be affected by the strikes.
The NEU has called on the Education Secretary to remove the preconditions for the talks and instead make a ‘serious’ offer on payment to prevent national strikes taking place in England and Wales on March 15 and 16.
Courtney told PA: ‘I think the government is fundamentally wrong in thinking that industrial relations are resolved by telling people they can’t go on strike if they want to talk to us.
‘We are willing to meet anytime, anywhere and we really hope that she will meet with us after these regional strikes and come up with something serious that is an offer that we can make to the members.
“That’s what we would want in an ideal world, to find a solution that means we don’t go through with those strikes in March.”
In a statement on Monday evening, Ms Keegan said: “As a government, we have made a serious offer to the leaders of the National Education Union and the Royal College of Nursing: pause the strikes this week, sit around the table and talk about wages, conditions and reforms.
“It is very disappointing that NEU have so far rejected this serious offer and have not joined the Royal College of Nursing in calling off the strikes.
IST members demonstrated outside Bute House in Edinburgh in January
‘Instead of sitting around a table to discuss salary, the NEU will once again cause disruption for children and families.
“Children deserve to be in school, and further strikes are simply inexcusable, especially after all that children have been through due to the pandemic.”
On February 1, the first day of strikes by NEU members, most public schools in England were forced to close their doors to some students.
Data from the Department for Education (DfE) suggested that 44.7 percent of public schools in England were open but restricting attendance and 9.3 percent were closed.
Only 17.4% of secondary schools reported being fully open during teacher strikes, compared to 52.1% of primary schools.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and University Leaders, said: “The impact is likely to be very similar this week.”
He added: ‘We are very disappointed that the Government has been unable to find a solution to the dispute and has instead played political games.
“He has presided over real wage cuts and chronic underfunding for schools for the past decade. It is these factors that have led not only to the strike, but also to a severe teacher shortage, which damages the educational offer every day.’
Teachers from the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and NASUWT unions will also launch a new wave of nationwide strike action on Tuesday.
Last week, most of Northern Ireland’s teachers and school leaders took part in a 12-hour strike over a pay dispute.
Amazon workers will also go on strike on Tuesday as the wave of industrial actions continues to sweep across the UK.
GMB said more than 350 employees at the compliance center in Coventry will take action in a pay dispute.
Meanwhile, the Chartered Physiotherapy Society announced Monday that 4,500 of its members in 56 trusts across England will strike on March 22 in a dispute over NHS wages.