Schools could close next week if “more than 100,000 teachers” go on strike

NEW teachers in front of Downing Street.

Around 143,000 union members voted for industrial action (Image: Shutterstock)

“Many schools” in England and Wales could be temporarily closed next week as more than 100,000 teachers stage industrial action.

Some 127,000 teachers and 16,000 support workers – who are part of the National Education Union (NEU) – voted to strike.

On February 1st the runaways begin.

A large number of workers joining the strike action means “many schools will be closing,” said union general secretary Mary Bousted.

She said this is particularly the case “in areas where the NEU is the largest union and has a really strong density, such as London’.

The NEU predicts that the upcoming strikes in February and March will affect a total of 23,400 schools.

Ms Bousted was encouraged by the recent increase in membership and said: “I think the action will be stronger because we have a larger membership. People join so they can take part in the action.

“That’s because there’s a deep and abiding anger at the circumstances in which they work.”

Schools have already seen closures over teachers’ strikes in Scotland (Image: PA)

She added that she believes “much more” than 100,000 will join the strikes next week.

Guidance from the Ministry of Education suggests agency staff and volunteers could be used to cover classes on strike days.

Headmasters are expected to “take all reasonable steps to keep the school open to as many pupils as possible”.

The NEU is required by law to notify schools of the number of members in a workplace before planned strikes, but the union is not required to provide employers with the names of individual members.

Ms Bousted said schools would have to decide whether or not to remain open based on how many NEU members work for them.

Although seven days of industrial action are planned for next week, the union said each individual school will only be affected for four days.

Of the 300,000 NEU teachers and staff who voted in favor of strikes, 143,000 supported the strikes.

Conversely, the NAHT Heads Union and NASUWT Teachers Union both failed to achieve the statutory 50% turnout for their members to strike over pay in England.

Both unions are considering re-electing members through pay.

Schools across Scotland have been closed over the past two weeks as members of unions including the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the world’s oldest teachers’ union, took action.

The General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, said: “Heads are currently in the process of working out what action they can offer in times of industrial action.

“The decision on whether to keep a site open will be made after a risk assessment, taking into account the safety of staff and students and considering the number of staff likely to be available not involved in industrial action.

“We call on the government to avert strikes by committing to improving pay and tackling the crisis in teacher recruitment and retention. There is still time to resolve this dispute.’

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Justin Scaccy

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