More than 70 Wigan schools affected as teachers stage fresh strikes in dispute over pay
Many schools reopened yesterday after the half-term holiday, but lessons may come to a halt again due to the long-running dispute over pay.
Teachers will walk out across the north of England, with the majority of schools expected to either restrict access to some pupils or fully close, the National Education Union (NEU) has said.
Wigan Council confirmed three schools will be closed to all pupils – Atherton St George’s and Beech Hill primary schools and Golborne St Thomas’ CE Junior and Infant School.
A further 48 primary schools, 16 high schools and four special schools will be partially closed.
Tens of thousands of teachers are expected to strike this week, with NEU members in the Midlands and eastern regions in England walking out on Wednesday, followed by strikes across Wales and the south of England on Thursday.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, told the PA news agency: “I think a majority of schools will be affected by the dispute. Some of them with full closures and many more with partial closures.
“Some secondary schools will be completely closed, others will have particular year groups in and a similar pattern in lots of primary schools.”
Picket lines will be mounted outside schools in the North West and rallies will be held in Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.
Some parents will be forced to take leave from work or arrange alternative childcare as a result of the walkouts.
Mr Courtney said: “We really do sincerely apologise for the disruption to their children’s education on our strike days, and to the disruption to their working lives and home lives.
“But we do believe we’re taking action with a moral purpose of trying to get the Government to invest in their children’s education.”
Last week, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan invited the teaching unions to “formal talks on pay, conditions and reform” on the condition that strike action this week was suspended.
The NEU called on Ms Keegan to drop pre-conditions to talks and instead make a “serious” offer on pay to avert national walkouts on March 15 and 16.
On February 1 – the first day of walkouts by NEU members – the majority of state schools in England were forced to shut their doors to some pupils.
Department for Education data suggested 44.7 per cent of state schools in England were open but restricting attendance and 9.3 per cent were closed.
Only 17.4 per cent of secondary schools reported being fully open during the teacher strikes, compared with 52.1 per cent of primary schools.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the impact would be “largely similar” this week.
He added: “We are very disappointed that the Government has failed to find a solution to the dispute and has instead played political games.
“It has presided over real-terms cuts to pay and the chronic under-funding of schools over the past decade. It is these factors which have led not only to industrial action but to a severe shortage of teachers, which damages educational provision every day.”