HUNDREDS of panicked parents only found out their children’s schools were closed due to teacher strike action just hours before the walkout.
Teachers aren’t required to give advance notice if they are participating in today’s mass protest, so many families were left in the dark until last night or even arriving at the gates this morning.
2Thousands of classrooms will be empty across the country today due to teacher strike actionCredit: Alamy2Teachers on the picket line outside Falkirk High School in StirlingshireCredit: PAIt means there was a mad scramble to find costly last-minute childcare and permission to work from home or have a day off to supervise remote lessons.
Dad Jonathan Wilkie, whose child attends Glade Hill Primary in Nottingham, said: “I found out at 3pm [yesterday] that my youngest is off school due to teacher strikes. Handy.
“I admire teachers as coaches for the future and they deserve to be paid fairly, but telling us with less than 24 hours notice is shocking.
“Booking a childminder requires payment and if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Another parent, who did not want to be named, was advised to bring her kids to school as normal this morning – but to expect to have to take them home again if not enough staff turned up.
The mum, from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, said: “Teachers don’t have to officially tell the school if they are striking so it’s difficult for them to plan.
“There will be so many parents pulling their hair out at 8am.
“Taking your children to school but then getting there to find out more teachers have decided on the day to strike – how is that allowed?”
Thankfully, her children’s school remained open, but she understands not everybody will be so lucky.
“This is causing so much stress for parents who at the last minute will have to arrange childcare or could face getting the sack for not being able to get to work,” she added.
“This is bonkers.”
Mikki Barnes, from Winchester, Hampshire, was also told that mums and dads would only get a final answer on the day.
And care assistant Nadine Sparrow fears she won’t be able to help her teenage son with his schoolwork as she has just finished a 12-hour night shift and they don’t have a computer.
She added: “I’m doing a 12-hour day shift the next day and the day after so I need to sleep.
“This strike s*** is getting on my last nerve.”
Today marks the first of seven National Education Union (NEU) strikes, which will take place throughout February and March.
Figures suggest that up to 150,000 teachers could walk out on each day, with 23,000 schools expected to be affected.
The NEU estimates around 85 per cent of schools are either fully or partially shut on February 1.
Speaking outside Bishop Thomas Grant School in Streatham, south London, general secretary Dr Mary Bousted told the BBC: “We are very sorry that parents have been so inconvenienced by this strike action.
“We know that for many of them it will be very difficult to get childcare.
“But we’re also receiving many more messages from parents who say ‘Well, something has to be done, my child is being taught by supply teacher after supply teacher’.”
The strike comes after last-ditch negotiation talks between Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and union bosses failed yesterday – and amid the biggest industrial action in a decade.
Up to half a million workers across seven trade unions are walking out in increasingly bitter disputes over pay, jobs and conditions, affecting schools, universities, trains, buses and airports.
Picket lines are mounted outside railway stations, schools, government departments and universities across the country on what is being dubbed ‘Walkout Wednesday’.
NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “Taking strike action is very much a last resort for our members.
“They do so with a heavy heart because they cannot stand by and watch their pupils not receiving the education they deserve.
“Parents know from first-hand experience that children are losing out because of the chronic shortage of teachers.
“Often pupils are being taught by short-term supply, or staff who aren’t qualified in the subject they’re teaching.
“Knowing that parents and members of the community support them taking a stand to Save Our Schools will give educators huge confidence in taking this action, not just for fair pay, but in defence of children’s education.”
Ms Keegan said she had been surprised to learn that teachers were not required to say in advance if they would be taking part in the strike.
She said the legal position will remain “under review”.
“It was a surprise to some of us that was in fact the law,” she told Times Radio.
“I did write to everybody urging them to be constructive, to let their heads know, and I am sure may teachers will have done that.
“There are discussions around minimum service levels, minimum safety levels, around hospitals, around rail – education is part of that Bill as well.
“We are hoping not to use that, we are hoping to make sure we continue with constructive discussions and relationships, but these things will always stay under review.”
What are you rights?
Can you take time off work if your child’s school is closed due to strikes?
In short, yes. You are entitled to take reasonable time off work to deal with an unexpected problem or emergency.
This is also called “dependant leave”, according to Citizens Advice.
Your employer can’t refuse dependant leave if you have no other option and you won’t face disciplinary action or lose your job.
If your child is under the age of 18, then you also have other rights to time off known as “parental leave” – but you must have worked for your employer for at least a year.
You can take up to 18 weeks off for parental leave before your child turns 18, but your employer can limit this to four weeks off per year.
Will you get paid for taking time off?
In both dependant and parental leave cases you won’t be paid for your time off, unless your contract of employment says so.
You may be able to negotiate taking holiday with your employer if you’d still like to get paid and are entitled to paid holiday, but this will be at their discretion.
Crucially, you don’t have to make up the missed time later on.
A reasonable boss will be flexible, particularly if you’ve given them plenty of notice and there’s nothing you can do about strikes.
For more advice, visit the Citizens Advice website.
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk