Why are teachers on strike today?

The latest National Education Union (NEU) ballot marks the largest vote for strike action in UK history

Eleanor Noyce
Wednesday 01 February 2023 11:04 GMT

Teachers strike: Education secretary ‘can’t guarantee’ schools will remain open

Teachers are to walk out in a series of strikes over two months after members of the National Education Union (NEU) voted in favour of action last week.

On January 16, NEU members – comprised of both teachers and teaching assistants – voted overwhelmingly for industrial action, with the ballot surpassing the highly restrictive thresholds set by the government.

The first wave of strikes, held on February 1 in England and Wales, is set to impact 23,400 schools.

Asked “Are you prepared to take strike action in furtherance of this dispute?”, 90.44 per cent of teachers in England voted ‘yes’ on a turnout of 53.27 per cent. In Wales, 92.28 per cent voted ‘yes’ on a turnout of 58.07 per cent. The current membership is over 450,000.

Some 88 per cent of support staff in Wales voted for strike action on a turnout of 51.3 per cent, with 84 per cent in England voting in favour on a turnout of 46.46 per cent.

It marks the largest vote for strike action ever achieved by any union in the UK.

Why is the NEU striking?

Like many other unions, the NEU is striking over pay. However, it isn’t just seeking a pay rise: it also wants to correct historic real-terms pay cuts. Teachers have lost 23 per cent in real terms since 2010, and support staff 27 per cent in the same period.

The average pay rise for teachers this year rests at 5 per cent, around 7 per cent behind inflation. Teachers are leaving in their droves, with one-third resigning within five years of qualifying, the union said.

“The government seems unbothered about the conditions they are allowing schools and colleges to slide into. The reasons for the recruitment and retention crisis are not a mystery”, the NEU outlined in a press release, further citing clear consequences of underfunding on both parents and children.

With a lack of dedicated maths teachers, 1 in 8 pupils are having their work set and assessed by people who are not qualified to teach this subject. It isn’t just teachers’ interests the NEU is striking for: it’s in the interests of parents and children, too.

When is the NEU striking?

Here are the dates announced by the NEU for industrial action and who will take part:

– Wednesday, 1 February 1: All eligible members in England and Wales

– Tuesday, 14 February: All eligible members in Wales

– Tuesday, 28 February: all eligible members in the Northern, North West, Yorkshire and The Humber regions in England

– Wednesday, 1 March: all eligible members in the East Midlands, West Midlands and Eastern regions in England

– Thursday, 2 March: all eligible members in the London, South East and South West regions in England

– Wednesday, 15 March: all eligible members in England and Wales

– Thursday, 16 March: all eligible members in England and Wales

The NEU will also hold rallies on 15 March at Westminster to address the government in England and in Cardiff to address the Welsh Government.

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