Teachers walk out over pay as schools in southern England and Wales struggle

Teachers in Wales and southern England will strike on Thursday in a long-running dispute over pay.

It is the third day of walkout by members of the National Education Union (NEU) following teacher strikes in the north of England on Tuesday and in the Midlands and East of England on Wednesday.

The NEU has estimated that around 200,000 members will strike during the three days of action this week, with the “majority of schools” expected to either restrict access to students or close entirely.

An Ipsos poll shows that three in five (60 per cent) parents and carers support teachers going on strike, but many (43 per cent) are worried about their children catching up on the jobs they have lost due to walkouts.

Pickets will be set up outside schools in London, south-east and south-west England on Thursday, as well as Wales, with rallies in Cardiff, Chichester, Bristol and Plymouth.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “While no teacher wants to be on strike, we are grateful for the support of parents and do not take it for granted.

“Many understand first-hand the issues facing schools and colleges and their children’s teachers.

“They need no convincing that there is disruption every day of the school year, thanks to poor decision-making and short-sighted government education policies.”

Last week, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan invited teaching unions to “formal talks on pay, conditions and reform” on the condition that this week’s walkouts are suspended.

Ms Keegan described the union’s decision not to suspend regional strikes as “hugely disappointing”.

Further national strikes by NEU members in England and Wales are planned for March 15 and 16.

Speaking on the third day of regional strikes this week, Dr Bousted said: “We urge Gillian Keegan to open negotiations with the profession to ensure we have a solution for the sake of teachers and children’s education.

“The government’s continued disruption of the talks will not improve their standing with parents and the general public.

“We need to see a meaningful offer that tackles the issues that are eroding this essential public service.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “This week’s rolling series of strikes poses further challenges for school leaders.

“While they will draw on their experiences of last month’s industrial action, in many cases they will not know the exact number of staff involved in the strike until the day itself.

“Leaders plan provision for students in line with expected staffing levels and in many cases, this will translate into on-site provision for vulnerable students and as many year groups as can be safely accommodated, with distance learning for others.

“While they are managing the situation as best they can, there will inevitably be disruption to education.”

He added: “The Government must reconvene talks with the unions as soon as possible and make a serious offer that addresses long-standing concerns about pay and conditions that have led to a recruitment and retention crisis in education.

“Further delay risks further strikes and further disruption to education that they simply cannot afford.”

Meanwhile, Amazon workers at one of the company’s warehouses in Coventry will go on strike again on Thursday as a wave of industrial action continues to sweep the UK.

The GMB said more than 350 center staff are expected to take action in the pay dispute.

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