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Teachers’ strikes for pay begin

14 February 2023

Teachers in Lambeth, London on picket duty, 1 February. Photo Workers.

On 1 February, teachers in the National Education Union (NEU) joined other public sector workers on strike. NEU members held the first of their planned six days of national and regional strike action throughout England and Wales.

The union estimates that over 300,000 members, in approximately 85 per cent of schools and colleges, took a stand for education in their claim for an above inflation pay increase.


To display the widespread anger over pay and contracting school budgets, the union held over 80 regional demonstrations. In addition an unprecedented number of school picket lines called on fellow workers to join them in their first day of action.

There is strong support among colleagues in other teaching unions for the striking NEU teachers. Many are frustrated because their own unions’ call for similar strikes fell foul of the government’s 50 per cent participation threshold for ballots.


This is particularly frustrating for members of the second largest teaching union, the NAS/UWT, where there is widespread support for action on pay. Over 9 in 10 of those voting supported strike action.

There are strong indications that NEU is a beneficiary of being seen as the union that is capable of fighting for the interests of all in education. Following the announcement of the successful ballot result, the union has gained 40,000 new members, many from other unions.


Headteachers are also giving unprecedented support for striking teachers, recognising the necessity for a fully funded pay rise. The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) has called for meaningful talks to end the dispute.

NAHT been similarly hobbled by not reaching the threshold in their strike ballot, although some members in Wales have started action short of striking. Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, joined with the NEU to ensure that the impact of industrial action should not be lessened by inappropriate measures taken by headteachers. He warned against pressuring staff to give advance notice of their intention to strike, which they are not required to do.

Unlike the government who have called for schools to continue to open at all cost, the NAHT has advised its members to be mindful of the risks of opening with a reduced number of staff. The union has even gone as far as encouraging discussion with teachers joining a picket line whether they wish to use the school’s toilet and refreshment facilities.