HOME schooling could return next month after teachers backed strike plans, causing chaos for parents.
Unions say ministers refused to meet their pay demands meaning industrial action is likely, which could leave classrooms empty.
2Home schooling could be introduced if members of the NEU teachers’ union vote for strike actionCredit: GettyLeaders of the National Education Union (NEU) are expected to announce the result on Monday having balloted its 300,000 members.
National walkouts and regional strike action would begin in February and could run until mid-March.
All NEU members in England and Wales would be called on to strike.
The two or three-day stoppages would follow the pattern used by the rail unions.
Union bosses say thousands of schools would be closed.
The ballot for action last six months.
NEU joint general secretary Mary Bousted said on Friday she was confident of reaching the threshold to take action.
That confidence was echoed by her co-general secretary Kevin Courtney.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is also expected to announce on Monday the results of its ballot for strike action.
Head teachers’ contingency plans include a return to home schooling and online lessons, which were introduced during the Covid lockdowns.
Schools could also remain open by doubling up classes as well as putting on alternative activities, The Times reports.
The NEU is calling on parents to back strike action with a Save Our Schools campaign which will see leaflets being handed out highlighting cuts to school funding and teacher shortages.
The union is demanding a 12 per cent pay rise although it has been offered a 5 per cent increase.
It says pay has fallen by around 23 per cent in real terms since 2010.
Union leaders, including ones from the NEU, are set to meet the education secretary Gillian Keegan on Wednesday for a second round of talks in a bid to avert a strike.
She has claimed that after two years of disrupted education “strike action is simply not a reasonable solution”.
Bousted said: “We want to negotiate but . . . there has to be a better pay deal on the table.”
Last week, Bousted believed the government was “desperate to head off a strike” that would see schools closed.
She said: “An education strike is their worst nightmare, we understand. If a school goes on strike that has such knock-on effects.”
Bousted added the education unions were just as determined as the health and rail unions to see through a strike.
The NASUWT teachers’ union said its ballot had failed to obtain the 50 per cent turnout threshold needed by law for strike action.
Under the government’s guidance, head teachers are able to decide if it is safe to keep a school open during a strike. They can also decide to move classes online.
Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis academies trust, which represents more than 50 schools, said the trust “was as ready as we could be”.
He added though that while they would aim to keep schools open some might need to close, which was dependent on if there were enough staff to operate safely.
“It depends how much union membership there is in each school,” he said. “If strike dates are implemented we would expect everyone to work together to try if possible to keep the school open for that day with a changed curriculum to meet the children’s needs. You can pull classes together, show films with larger groups of pupils.
“If we had to close the school we would move back to home schooling and online teaching. We have already invested in an iPad for every child. I should imagine that some schools may move to that.”
The Department for Education said: “After two years of disrupted education for children and young people, families will be relieved that teachers from NASUWT did not choose to strike.
“The education secretary has arranged further meetings with union leaders to avoid harmful strike action.
“We have already met the unions’ request for a further £2 billion for schools both next year and the year after in the autumn statement and awarded teachers with the highest pay award in 30 years.”
2Parents could be severely disrupted if strikes go aheadCredit: Getty
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk