HUNDREDS of thousands of teachers across England and Wales are set to strike in a major dispute over pay.
A ballot of National Education Union members in England voted 90% in favour of industrial action on a 53% turnout this afternoon.
Teachers in England and Wales will strike for seven days across February and March
Meanwhile, teachers in Wales voted 92% in favour on a turnout of 58%.
In February and March strikes will take place across SEVEN days.
On February 1 school staff in England and Wales will stage their first walkout.
Then, strikes will go ahead on a regional basis on February 14 and 28, and March 1, 2.
Finally, nationwide walkouts in England and Wales will take place on March 15 and 16.
Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union, said: “We have continually raised our concerns with successive education secretaries about teacher and support staff pay and its funding in schools and colleges, but instead of seeking to resolve the issue they have sat on their hands.
“It is disappointing that the Government prefers to talk about yet more draconian anti-strike legislation, rather than work with us to address the causes of strike action.”
Teachers are the latest public sector workers to threaten strike action due to a major dispute over pay.
Ministers have offered experienced staff a 5% hike and new teachers an 8.9% rise for this year.
But union chiefs want salaries up by an inflation busting 12%.
Last week strikes were avoided after not enough teachers belonging to the NASWUT union balloted for industrial action.
While 88.5% voted in favour, only 42% of members turned out to vote – below the legal threshold of 50%.
Union bosses last night gave the Government two weeks to up their pay offer or face huge disruption next month.
But they were slammed for hurting pupils still scrambling to catch up after lockdown.
Cabinet Minister Mark Harper warned more time out of lessons was “the last thing” kids needed.
He blasted: “Any strikes, anything disrupting children’s education, would be very regrettable.”
The prospect of school strikes come as ambulance workers, nurses and rail staff remain locked in major pay disputes with the government.
Last week thousands of ambulance workers walked out of work for the second time in one month.
Strikes would leave hard-pressed parents either forking out for childcare or taking time off work.
Former teacher and Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith said: “Children and their parents shouldn’t have to suffer because of the politicised actions of left-wing union leaders.
“I’m sure most teachers agree, which is why the recent NASUWT strike ballot failed to reach the required threshold.
“Other groups such as the NEU now need to realise that too, rather than playing politics with the prospects of our pupils.
“Unions also need to consider the effect this will have on childcare and therefore the wider economy.”
Fellow Tory MP Jonathan Gullis, another ex-teacher, said: “The baron bosses are out of touch with the majority of their members and only interested in pushing their own agenda.
“Just like in lockdown, it will be the pupils who suffer.”
Conservative MP Miriam Cates added: “I think teacher strikes would be absolutely appalling, especially after the pandemic.
“If we didn’t have clear evidence on the harms of missing school before Covid, then we certainly do now — and to knowingly put children through that again is morally wrong.”
The independent Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza also said strikes would be the “wrong course of action”.
“It will disrupt their learning just as they are getting back on track.”
She added: “We cannot afford to have any more disruption to children’s schooling.
And on Wednesday members of the Royal College of Nursing will withdraw their labour from NHS trusts and clinics for 48 hours.