Teachers not on strike told to spend day in empty classrooms

Empty classroom - Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Empty classroom - Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Non-striking teachers will be told to come in to empty schools during strikes, it emerged as union bosses warned that the majority of classes will be told to stay at home.

School leaders who have decided to close their premises to all pupils have told The Telegraph that teachers who are not striking will spend the day in classrooms without any children.

Parents of pupils at many schools in England and Wales have received letters warning that they will close on Feb 1 despite uncertainty over how many teachers will walk out.

One school in Suffolk said teachers who were not members of the National Education Union (NEU) would spend the day doing administrative work and would not be asked to teach lessons online.

Head teachers have widely rejected government guidance that asked them to consider bringing in supply teachers, volunteers and external organisations to help keep schools open during strikes.

In letters to parents seen by The Telegraph, dozens of schools said they were closing for “safety” reasons because of the likelihood of a large number of staff absences. Some said they would provide online learning resources for pupils at home.

The NEU has warned that more than 100,000 teachers are expected to strike, closing more than 12,000 schools to some or all year groups.

Dr Mary Bousted, the union’s joint general secretary, said she expected the “majority” of the 25,000 schools in England and Wales to be closed to all or some classes on Wednesday.

“I think very few schools will remain completely unaffected by it,” she said, adding that head teachers deciding to close based on a health and safety risk assessment “should be allowed to make that decision because it is right for their school and should not be intimidated by DfE [the Department for Education]”.

Head teachers have been told how many of their teachers are members of the NEU. However, teachers are not obliged to tell head teachers if they plan to strike on Wednesday.

More than 30,000 teachers have joined the NEU since it announced strike action next week, with the aim of maximising strike chaos. Teachers will lose a day’s pay for going on strike.

On Friday Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, urged teachers to keep schools open during the seven planned days of industrial action in February and March.

Speaking at the Church of England’s National Education Conference in London, she called on them to “work with me to keep as many schools open and as many children in school as possible during the disruptive strike action”.

Bella Skinner, of parents’ group UsForThem, said: “It’s hugely disappointing that children once again are going to suffer disruption to their education and uncertainty about whether they are going to attend school.

“If we want our children to value education, we need to show them that we value it too, and adults need to put children’s interests first and ensure that their education can flourish.”