Thousands of pupils are facing disruption as teachers strike over pay.
Some parents may need to take time off work or make other childcare arrangements if individual schools are closed.
When are NEU teachers striking?
After balloting 300,000 teachers and support staff, the UK’s largest education union, the National Education Union (NEU), announced seven strike days in February and March:
- 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 striking, in a separate pay dispute, will also walk out on these dates.
When are other teaching unions striking?
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is taking action short of a strike from 1 February, including not attending meetings after 17:00 and refusing to engage with school inspectors.
Teachers are striking in two local authorities per day until 6 February.
The Educational Institute of Scotland and two other unions will also walk out on 28 February and 1 March.
And the EIS will hold 20 further strike days from 13 March to 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?
Head teachers decide whether to close their school. There are no minimum staffing rules.
Government guidance says schools should try to stay open. Agency staff and volunteers can be used to cover classes and teachers do not have to stick to the curriculum.
If any pupils have to stay home, remote education should be provided – much like the online learning during the pandemic.
As in England, head teachers decide whether to close their school.
The Welsh government says schools and local authorities should work together to minimise disruption.
In Scotland, local councils decide.
So far, almost all primary and secondary schools have had to close on days of national or local strikes.
Can I get time off work if my child’s school closes?
You have the right to take time off work to care for “family and dependants”, in an emergency – which can include childcare falling through.
Check with your employer for specific guidance, such as whether it will pay you for the time off.
Under this rule, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales, your employer must not refuse you reasonable time off. If you think they are treating you unfairly, ask for advice from your union (if you have one) or the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).
You might also be able to take unpaid parental leave or annual leave to care for your child on strike days.
Will strikes affect breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and pre-schools?
The head teacher may keep a breakfast club, after-school club or pre-school open even if the school itself has to close.
Privately run clubs might not run as usual, so check with the provider.
Will vulnerable children and key workers be prioritised?
Schools in England should prioritise staying open for vulnerable children, children of critical workers and exam students – even if the rest of the school is closed.
Will exams be cancelled?
Schools and colleges should ensure exams go ahead on strike days – even if the school is closed to other pupils.
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, the guidance for England says.
This might involve schools giving children food parcels.
In Scotland, some families with pupils entitled to free school meals have been paid to cover the costs. Others have been offered a packed lunch.
Why are teachers striking?
The Institute for Fiscal Studies says teachers’ salaries in England fell by an average of 11% between 2010 and 2022, if taking into account rising prices.
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 and they want schools to be given extra money to ensure rises do not have to come from existing budgets.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says the government has already agreed to 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 to 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.