Thousands of schools are facing disruption as teachers strike over pay.
Many parents may need to take time off work, or arrange childcare, if their children’s school closes.
When are NEU teachers striking?
England and Wales
More than 100,000 teachers could strike, with 23,000 schools affected, the National Education Union (NEU) says. The NEU, which is the largest teaching union, plans seven strike days:
- 1 February: All schools in England and Wales
- 14 February: All schools in Wales
- 28 February: North and north-west England, Yorkshire and Humber
- 1 March: East Midlands, West Midlands, and the NEU’s eastern region
- 2 March: South-east and south-west England, and London
- 15 and 16 March: All schools in England and Wales
NEU teachers in sixth-form colleges in England, who have already been on strike over pay, will also walk out.
When are the NAHT, EIS and other unions striking?
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is taking action short of a strike from 1 February.
Teachers are striking in two local authorities per day until 6 February.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and two other unions will also walk out on 28 February and 1 March.
The EIS will hold 20 further strike days between 13 March and 21 April.
Most teachers in Northern Ireland are walking out for half a day on 21 February.
Teachers from five unions have been taking action short of a strike since October.
Will my child’s school close when teachers strike?
Schools should try to stay open, the government says.
However, many are likely to be at least partially closed.
It is head teachers who decide whether to close their school. Individual teachers don’t have to say if they will strike and there are no rules for when parents must be told about closures.
If a school does open, there are no minimum staffing rules and heads can use agency staff and volunteers to cover classes. They do not have to stick to the curriculum.
Schools may choose to offer remote education to pupils at home, but this is not compulsory.
As in England, head teachers decide whether to close.
The Welsh government says schools and local authorities should ideally provide a week’s notice of any closure.
It says it’s up to individual schools to decide how best to minimise the impact of the strikes on their students.
Almost all primary and secondary schools have closed on strike days. Local councils make this decision.
Can I get time off work?
You have the right to take time off work to care for “family and dependants”, which can include emergency childcare.
Check with your employer for guidance, such as whether it will pay you.
Under this rule, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales, your employer must not refuse a reasonable request.
You might also be able to take annual leave or unpaid parental leave.
Will strikes affect breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and pre-schools?
Head teachers may keep a breakfast club, after-school club or pre-school open even if the school closes.
Privately-run clubs might not operate as usual, so check with the provider.
Will vulnerable children and key workers be prioritised?
Schools in England should prioritise staying open for vulnerable pupils, key workers’ children and exam students.
Wales’s education minister says head teachers will be doing “whatever they can” to support pupils sitting exams, and vulnerable children.
Will exams be cancelled?
All schools and colleges should have exam contingency plans in place to help prevent any kind of disruption.
Schools should try to prioritise exams and other formal assessments on strike days, even if the school is closed to other pupils.
But if they think strikes could disrupt the exams, school leaders should ask for advice from exam boards, according to guidance for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Parents and students will be told by the school if there needs to be any change to the exam or venue.
What happens to children on free school meals?
Schools must support children eligible for benefits-related free school meals who cannot attend school during strikes.
This might involve providing food parcels.
In Scotland, some families with children entitled to free school meals were given money to cover the cost, while others were offered a packed lunch.
What are teachers’ pay demands?
Teacher salaries in England fell by an average of 11% between 2010 and 2022, after taking rising prices into account, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says.
Most state-school teachers in England and Wales had a 5% rise in 2022. In Northern Ireland many teachers were offered 3.2% for 2021/22 and 2022/23. In Scotland, teachers have rejected both a 5% increase and a more recent offer of up to 6.85%.
Unions say inflation means the pay increases are really cuts. They want schools to get extra money to ensure pay rises do not come from existing budgets.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says the government has already agreed to provide an extra £2bn in school funding, “which will take real-terms spending on schools to its highest level in history”.
How much do teachers get paid?
The starting salary for teachers in England is due to rise to £30,000 a year by September 2023.
State school classroom teachers in England were paid an average of £38,982 in the 2021/22 school year. This compares with £39,009 in Wales and £40,026 in Scotland. Northern Ireland did not provide a figure.
The average head teacher’s salary in England for the same period was £74,095, and £57,117 for other senior leaders.
Experts in England advise the government about teacher pay, based on factors including vacancies and subject shortages.
As with all public spending, money allocated in England determines the funding awarded to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Employers also contribute 23.68% to teacher pensions, which the education secretary called “very generous”. Nurses, by comparison, receive 14.38% in employer contributions.