Teachers' strikes and school disruption in England as NEU members walk out again

On Wednesday, a large number of schools in England will likely close due to a new round of teacher strikes over pay.

Since February, members of the National Education Union (NEU) in England have staged six national strikes, with a seventh planned for Friday. In addition to classes, end-of-semester activities such as sports day, concerts, and field excursions could be interrupted. As additional strike ballots are cast, schools are preparing for additional disruptions during the upcoming school year.

It has been more than five months since teachers first marched on picket lines while wearing woolen caps and carrying takeout coffee in gloved hands. This time, they are requesting above-inflation raises as well as additional funds to assure that any pay raises do not come from existing school budgets. Since the initial strike on 1 February, the weather may have improved, but relations between the two parties in this dispute remain as icy as ever.

There are no ongoing discussions between the unions and the Department of Education (DfE), and no apparent resolution is in sight. There have been crucial moments in the past few months.

In March, after intense negotiations, the government offered instructors an additional one-time payment of £1,000. In addition, the majority of instructors will receive a 4.3% pay increase next year, with starting salaries reaching £30,000 according to sources. 

The NEU and three other unions involved in the dispute have rejected the offer, eliminating the possibility of a one-time payment. As schools returned for the summer term, all four announced that they would coordinate any future strikes. There have been additional strikes since then. The most recent strike, which occurred on 2 May, affected more schools than in the past.

As they prepared for examinations, some of the adolescents with whom we spoke at the time were concerned that their revision classes would be impacted. The NEU stated that it did everything possible to ensure that school was as normal as feasible for those year groups taking summer examinations. The future will be determined by two factors.

The first is the announcement of teacher salaries for the upcoming school year. The issue has been examined by the independent pay review body, and the government is presently evaluating its recommendations. The other factor to keep an eye on will be the outcomes of the four unions' current strike ballots. Members of the NEU, the teachers' union NASUWT, and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) have been asked for the second time whether they would be willing to strike over remuneration. The last time, only the NEU received enough ballots to proceed with industrial action.

In addition, for the first time in its 150-year history, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), another chief teachers' union, is conducting a vote among its members. According to sources, principals are concerned about the impact pay has on staff recruitment and retention. Given that these ballots are scheduled to close in mid- to late-July, the future weeks may be filled with activity.

Teacher Tapp surveys thousands of primary and secondary instructors in the public and private sectors about their daily classroom experiences. According to a recent survey, nearly four in ten Year 6 students had scheduled visits to their new secondary institutions on strike days this week.