Britain's biggest teaching union has said it would not be "appropriate" or "achievable" to hold a national strike over the government's proposed wider reopening of schools on 8 March.
In a members' meeting of the NEU teaching union yesterday evening, joint general secretary Mary Bousted said she had looked in the meeting chat line and seen members saying "ballot".
Schools reopening: ‘Where are the Nightingale classrooms?’
"The indication we have from the membership is that they would not support a national ballot–- we would not get the ballot threshold that we need to take a national ballot," she said.
"And a national ballot takes a long time to organise, certainly much longer than a return on 8 March.
Schools reopening: Strike ballot 'not the way to go ahead'
"The thresholds are extremely high and there is no indication we would meet those thresholds, so the national executive debated that issue and came to the conclusion that a ballot is not the right way to go ahead.
"What is the right way to go ahead is to ensure, school by school, that the return is as safe as possible, given that infection rates are falling, given that hospitalisation rates are falling and given that the vaccine rollout is taking place – that is what the executive agreed."
Dr Bousted added: "You can't simply say 'ballot' and then a ballot takes place immediately. There is trade union industrial legislation which you have to abide by – but actually, it's not just that we have to abide by the trade union legislation: we do not think, and the executive – we have a 78-member executive and they agreed – that that would be the right move at the current time, not only because we wouldn't meet the thresholds, and that would weaken the union, but because the situation has changed from 3 January.
"It has changed, the infection rates are down...the hospitalisation rates are down, the infection rates are down throughout society.
"We have to look at the situation as it develops. We are going to meet with the executive at Easter, when we have had three weeks back at school, and we will look again at the situation.
"We are going to keep a very close eye on the ONS [Office for National Statistics] data of infection rates in school and we are also going to keep a very close eye...on all the data, transmission within schools and transmission from schools out into the community.
"So it's an easy thing to say 'ballot' but that is not going to stop a school return on 8 March and nor do we think it is the achievable or appropriate action under these new circumstances."