Teachers’ strike could see return to online lessons

The expected teacher’s strike could see children once again taking online lessons as they did at the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns. Ministers are also hoping that schools can pool their resources, with children potentially being transported to different locations to be able to attend school.

According to The Independent, the Government is drawing up contingency plans for a possible walkout in many schools across the country.

Two of the UK’s major teaching unions, the National Education Union (NEU) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) have held ballots on strike action, with the results expected to come through on Monday.

The NEU says it is “confident” its members will vote in favor of industrial action, with the first walkout possibly coming as early as January 30.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan has warned about the impact of strikes on children who have already endured schooling through a pandemic, stating the “stakes have never been higher”.

The CEO of academy trust The White Horse Foundation, Paul Smith has said that while he respects the teachers’ right to strike, educators must remember they have a “moral responsibility” to balance that right with the needs of those most “vulnerable”.

He said that if the NEU ballot meets the threshold for industrial action, his organization “will be introducing Covid-like arrangements so that the most vulnerable students and those from keyworker families have a safe and warm place they can come to during any industrial action” .

The group will also provide lunch for those who would normally receive free school meals.

He said: “The last thing our students should have to endure is more days without school.”

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However unions have expressed concern over the feasibility of keeping schools open during a strike, with Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders union, saying that decision would have to be based on a “risk assessment”.

He added that schoolwork set for pupils to do at home would also have to take into consideration “staff availability and workload to set and mark that work”.

Mr Barton insisted the “last thing” anyone wants is more disruption, but that the erosion of teachers’ pay and conditions over the last 12 years had left the unions with little choice.

He said: “Rather than seeking to limit the impact of possible strikes, the Government should tackle the root cause and provide teachers with a significant, fully funded pay award.”

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