April 22, 2024

A majority of state schools in England and Wales will shut their doors across several days in the coming months if the country’s biggest teaching union votes to strike, reports suggest.

The National Education Union (NEU) is said to expect its members – a ballot of whom is set to end on Friday – to vote in favour of taking mass industrial action.

NEU secretary-general Kevin Courtney told The Observer that action taken by its members alone would be enough to cause many school closures on strike days, prompting the most widespread school shut down for many years.

The results of strike action ballots from other teaching unions, including the NASUWT and headteachers’ union NAHT, are also expected in the coming days. The NEU expects to announce its own verdict on 16 January.

Mr Courtney told the newspaper he was confident that the ballot would swing in favour of industrial action, but admitted being uncertain as to whether the threshold for strikes to take place would be met.

Current legislation requires union ballots to attract a turnout of at least 50 per cent, with strikes needing to be supported by 40 per cent of all members.

In the event of a vote for strike action, Mr Courtney said: “We will call on members in all schools in England and Wales to strike – many would have to close.”

The Observer understands that the 45,000-member-strong NEU is planning several days of walkouts, from early February to mid-march. The action is expected to include a mix of national and regional walkouts.

The NEU is demanding a 12 per cent pay rise for its members – a far cry from the 5 per cent offered to teachers by the government.

But the newspaper reports that the NEU is considering taking ministers seriously in negotiations should they offer closer to 9 per cent to be “fully funded” by the government.

Mr Courtney said there was still time for the government to “put money on the table”, hold meaningful talks over pay, and potentially suspend the strikes to make way for negotiations.

Emily Atkinson

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