Thousands of teachers could strike despite warnings over children

Thousands of teachers could be set to strike despite warnings vulnerable children will be put at risk – as Scottish union members begin 16-day walkout

  • National Education Union (NEU) will today announce if strikes will go ahead 
  • Children’s Commissioner warns that a walkout would hurt vulnerable pupils 
  • Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union members start 16 day strike today

The country’s largest teaching union will today announce if it plans to strike despite warnings that walkouts will put vulnerable children at risk.

Leaders of the National Education Union (NEU) are expected to reveal if teachers across the country will launch strike action after balloting its 300,000 members.

But the Children’s Commissioner has warned that a walkout would hurt vulnerable pupils still recovering from the impact of the pandemic.

Dame Rachel de Souza said children ‘cannot afford’ to have yet more class time distributed, just as they were getting back into school following Covid closures.

It comes as members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union are beginning 16 days of rolling strike action on Monday, with teachers in two of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas walking out each day until February 6. 

Teachers demonstrate outside Holyrood Secondary School on January 16, 2023 in Glasgow, Scotland

Teachers on the picket line outside Pinkie St Peters Primary School in Musselburgh, East Lothian

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Dame Rachel de Souza said: ‘As we face the prospect of teacher strikes in England, I feel more strongly than ever that this is the wrong course of action,’ Dame Rachel said.

‘It’s damaging to children’s outcomes. It will disrupt their learning just as they are getting back on track. And it can put some children at risk, particularly the ones that school provides protection from other difficulties in their lives.’

The dispute comes amid concerns over pay and staffing levels which has seen many schools scrambling for specialists in maths and chemistry.

Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) general secretary, Andrea Bradley (L), joins teachers in a picket line outside Hillhead High School on January 16, 2023 in Glasgow

Teachers are holding placards saying ‘Pay Attention’ in a protest over pay 

The NEU is demanding a fully funded, above-inflation pay rise for teachers and support staff, and effective action on pay for supply and other educators.

The school leaders’ union NAHT, which polled 25,500 members, is also expected to announce ballot results today – the first in its 125-year history.

Ballots have to meet a 50 per cent turnout threshold, with 40 per cent of eligible members voting ‘yes’ in order to be lawful.

Successful mandates could see a mix of national and regional walkouts, with strikes starting in February, it has been reported.

It comes after hopes for strike action by the teaching union NASUWT were dealt a humiliating blow on Friday after it failed to reach the threshold for turnout.

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) have walked out in the first national strike over pay for almost 40 years

In Scotland, children are set to miss more days of school after a union announced 22 more days of strikes in the ongoing pay dispute

Teachers on the picket line outside Pinkie St Peters Primary School in Musselburgh, East Lothian, in a protest over pay

Just 42 per cent of the primary and secondary staff balloted by the union turned out to vote in what was described by MPs as a ‘win for parents and pupils’.

But although staff in state schools cannot launch industrial action, a mandate for strikes was reached in 125 independent schools in England and 7 independent schools in Wales.

The Department for Education is selected to soon publish guidance for schools on how to minimise the impact on children if strikes go ahead.

Headteachers will be urged to keep schools open for as many children as possible – with priority going to youngsters from vulnerable households.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, children are set to miss more days of school after a union announced 22 more days of strikes in the ongoing pay dispute.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said on Friday the new strike days are in addition to the previously announced 16-day programme of rolling strike action, set to begin in schools across the country on Monday.

The EIS Executive Committee met on Friday and agreed action that will include two days of strikes in all schools and sectors on February 28 and March 1, followed by a rolling programme of strikes for 20 days between March 13 and April 21.

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