Teachers who are members of the National Education Union are striking this week.
The action is expected to affect all schools in England, including sixth form colleges. No disruption is expected in Wales, as strikes there were cancelled following Government talks.
The strikes are part of a continuing dispute over pay and funding in schools. During previous strikes in February and March more than half of schools either closed or restricted their attendance.
Here’s everything you need to know.
When are the teacher strikes?
On Wednesday and Thursday 15-16 March, NEU members in England will take nationwide industrial action. Teachers in Wales were set to join the strike, but the NEU called it off after the Welsh government proposed a new pay offer.
Union members are not required to inform their employers if they plan to strike. Schools will decide how to handle strike days in their region on an individual basis, and should contact parents and guardians in advance with arrangements.
Why are teachers striking?
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, has said that teachers had only voted to strike “because they feel desperate”.
The NEU is demanding a pay rise for its members of 12 per cent, rather than the 3.5 per cent offered by the Government so far for most teachers in England.
Unions argue that teachers’ pay has fallen by almost a quarter in real terms since 2010, and that the profession faces a recruitment and retention crisis fuelled by low salaries.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “As a Government, we have made a serious offer to the leaders of the National Education Union and Royal College of Nursing: pause strikes, get round the table and talk about pay, conditions and reforms.
“It is hugely disappointing the NEU has thus far refused this serious offer and has not joined the Royal College of Nursing in calling off strikes.
“Instead of sitting round a table discussing pay, the NEU will once again cause disruption for children and families.
“Children deserve to be in school, and further strike action is simply unforgivable, especially after everything children have been through because of the pandemic.”
Mr Courtney said: “I think the Government is fundamentally mistaken in thinking that industrial relations are solved by telling people you can’t go on strike if you want to talk to us.
“We are willing to meet at any time, any place and we would really hope that she does meet with us after these regional strikes and comes up with something serious that is an offer that we can put to members.
“That’s what we would want in an ideal world, to find a solution that means we don’t go ahead with those strikes in March.”
In Wales, the Education Minister, Jeremy Miles, has offered to give teachers an 8 per cent increase in pay for 2022-23.
Dr Bousted and Mr Courtney thanked the Welsh government for the “constructive manner in which they have pursued a solution”.
What has been said today?
Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union said: “We do not want to go on strike – we want to be in the classroom, teaching and supporting children and young people.
“It continues to be a regret that our members have to take strike action, but we know that parents and the public understand the gravity of the situation around school funding and teacher recruitment and retention.
“The NEU, as we have always stated, is prepared to enter talks at any point, and as and when through negotiation a reasonable offer from Government is made we will pause strike action while the offer is put to members.
“This is exactly what happened last week in Wales. Gillian Keegan (Education Secretary) needs to take a leaf out of the Welsh Government’s book, stop playing politics and get down to serious negotiation.”
Nadia Whittome, Labour MP for Nottingham East, has donated £3,000 to a strike fund for teachers and support staff in the area.
She said: “Teachers and support staff in Nottingham work tirelessly to give young people the best start in life. Thanks to 13 years of Conservative governments, they are underpaid, overworked and stretched thinner than ever.
“While the decision to strike will not have been an easy one, this dispute is not only about ensuring that teaching staff can provide for their families in a cost of living crisis, but for the future of our education system which cannot continue to treat educators this way.”
“The Government must come to the table and make a serious offer to bring this dispute to an end. In the meantime, I hope that my donation will help ensure school staff in Nottingham do not fall into hardship as a result of taking strike action.”
Ms Keegan also released an open letter to parents and carers on Tuesday, the day before the strike.
She said: “This industrial action will mean more disruption to children’s education and to your lives too – whether that’s work, arranging childcare, or changing other plans.
“I am extremely disappointed that many young people will once again miss invaluable time learning with their teachers and friends, particularly after their education was significantly disrupted during the pandemic.
“It is made worse by the fact that this strike action is completely unnecessary. As I said to the NEU three weeks ago, I want to get around the table and engage in serious talks on teachers’ pay and other issues to resolve disputes.
“My only condition was that strike action is paused so those discussions can take place in good faith and without disruption.
“This was the same offer, and the same condition, made to unions representing nurses, ambulance workers and physiotherapists. Those unions accepted that offer, paused their strikes and are now negotiating on behalf of their members in private.
“The NEU instead seems focused on strikes and all the needless disruption that brings.
“This morning I have written to the unions again to invite them to have those talks on Wednesday and Thursday this week – all they need to do is call off strikes which are unnecessary and benefit no one.
“The single best thing the NEU could do for both its members and for children and young people would be to sit down and talk about pay.
“I will continue doing everything I can to end the disruption your family is facing as quickly as possible, particularly because I know exams for older pupils are coming up fast.
“I hope any arrangements you make this week mean that pupils’ education can continue – even if not in the classroom – and that the next time I write it will be with news that this disruption has been brought to an end.”