Five questions everybody is asking about the NUT strike today

How many teachers are on strike? And what are they striking about? TES answers these questions and more

Kaye Wiggins

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1. How many teachers are on strike?

More than 210,000 teachers are eligible to take part because they are members of the NUT teaching union and work in maintained schools or academies – but it is not yet clear how many of these will join the strike. Further figures are expected to be published this afternoon.

Kevin Courtney, acting general secretary of the NUT, said today: "Given the discontent among teachers, this is action that will be well supported."

2. How many schools are closed?

Mr Courtney said "the majority of schools" would be affected by the strike, whether through complete closure, partial closure or a reduced timetable.

But provisional Department for Education figures – drawn from 80.3 per cent of England’s publicly funded schools – indicated that 65.6 per cent were open, 21.7 per cent were partially open and 12.7 per cent were closed.

3. Why are teachers on strike?

The NUT claims funding to schools is being cut, leading to increased workloads for teachers and bigger class sizes. It points to figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which show school spending per pupil is likely to fall by around 8 per cent in real terms between 2014-15 and 2019-20.

The NUT has issued the government with three strike demands:

  • To increase funding to schools and education.
  • To guarantee terms and conditions in all types of schools.
  • To resume negotiations on teacher contracts to allow workload to be addressed.

Mr Courtney said today: "Schools are facing the worst cuts in funding since the 1970s. The decisions which headteachers have to make are damaging to our children and young people's education. Class sizes going up, school trips reduced, materials and resources reduced, and subjects – particularly in the arts – are being removed from the curriculum. Teaching posts are being cut or not filled when staff leave."

He said it was important that education should not be sidelined in the political turmoil that has been brought about by the EU referendum result.

4. What does the government say?

Education secretary Nicky Morgan said that fewer than 10 per cent of teachers had voted for the walkout.

"The schools budget is the highest it has ever been this year at £40 billion," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning. "It has gone up £4 billion since 2011-12." 

In a letter to the NUT last week, Ms Morgan said: "Rather than playing politics with children’s futures over the issue of pay and conditions, I would urge you to reconsider this damaging industrial action.

She said it was "disingenuous" to suggest the government was not prioritising school funding and that it had also prioritised removing unnecessary workload for teachers.

"I believe this action is counterproductive – it will harm children’s education, inconvenience parents and damage the profession’s reputation in the eyes of the public," she added.

5. What will striking teachers do today?

Marches and rallies have been organised across the country, including in London, Durham, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Sheffield, Birmingham, Cambridge and Bristol. The NUT expects the central London march, which began at noon, to be attended by between 6,000 and 8,000 teachers.

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Kaye Wiggins

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