Teaching unions issue ultimatum to ministers it’s ‘now or never’ to avoid strikes and schools closing

2BNRNE1 Modern empty classroom with colorful lockers and raised chairs on the tables - back to school

TEACHING unions warned Ministers yesterday that it was “now or never” to avoid strikes. 

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan begged them not to walk out and said kids have suffered enough.

Schools could close if teachers vote to walk out

Gillian Keegan said children’s learning saw “significant disruption” during the pandemic as she tried to stop schools closing.

Three teaching unions in pay disputes will announce the results of industrial action ballots in the coming days.

Ms Keegan opened a 1.5-hour meeting brandishing the letter unions sent her when she started the job – a demand for £2billion extra which she later won from the Treasury.

The Education Department said it was a “constructive meeting” which began discussions on next year’s pay review.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The meeting was constructive but largely unsatisfactory in that our concerns over the long-term erosion of teacher pay and conditions”. 

National Education Union chief Mary Bousted said: “We’ve made it very clear to the Government that the time for intensive negotiations around a better pay offer for this year is now. It’s now or never.

“At the moment there’s nothing concrete that would, if the members vote to take action, stop us doing that because there’s no concrete offer from the Government, particularly on this year’s pay award.”

Schools could be forced to shut if teachers walk out, with strikes earmarked for February if members vote for action.

The Government is drawing up contingency plans to mitigate the impact, including keeping key worker kids in schools with reduced staff. 

A DfE spokesperson said: “Alongside starting open discussions on the evidence submitted for next years’ pay award, the Secretary of State listened to union leaders’ broader concerns. The Education Secretary expressed her willingness to continue talks over the coming days and weeks.”