Teachers plan to coordinate strikes to close as many schools as possible, The Telegraph can reveal.
Three of the UK’s main education unions will close the polls next week. If they reach the required threshold for industrial action, teachers will be the next major public sector group to pull out, wreaking havoc on children’s education.
“Obviously, the unions will talk to each other about the dates of the strikes and try to coordinate them. It makes sense to do this: there will be more impact,” said an education union source.
Teachers at any given school can belong to multiple different unions, meaning that a coordinated strike would make it more likely that entire schools would shut down.
Meanwhile, junior doctors are threatening to go on strike for three days in March if the vote that opens Monday is in favor of industrial action.
It comes as Rishi Sunak summoned union bosses to Whitehall on Monday in a bid to break the deadlock over the crippling strikes.
The Prime Minister said he wanted to have an “honest and adult conversation” with union bosses about how to reach a “responsible, reasonable and affordable” wage deal.
The National Education Union (NEU) has told its 300,000 members that they have until Saturday to send in their ballots to ensure they arrive before the deadline.
Members of the National Association of Teachers Unions of Women Teachers and the National Association of Principals are also voting, and all voting will close next Friday.
“Once we have the result of the vote, we will be able to state what the pattern of action would be,” a union source told the Telegraph. “We would talk to each other, that was to be expected.”
The source argued that this would actually be better for parents because it would mean having to arrange childcare for only a limited number of days, adding: “The problem with doing it on different dates is that it can create more disruption. The last people we want to interrupt are parents and children.”
The results of the teachers’ union vote are expected to go all the way as postal strikes have delayed the arrival of many ballot papers, The Telegraph revealed last week.
Ministers angered teachers in the final days of the vote by announcing plans to make all students in England study mathematics up to the age of 18 without any policy to solve the shortage of mathematics teachers.
The government has also faced backlash over plans to introduce a new law that would keep schools open during strikes with minimum service levels.
Kevin Courtney, the NEU’s assistant general secretary, said the law would create “a situation where you have the right to strike but not a meaningful way to do so.” Geoff Barton of the Association of School and University Leaders accused the ministers of “saber rattling”.
On Friday night, there were signs that the government was preparing to soften its stance on pay increases in the public sector.
Letters sent to health unions by the Health Secretary said the government was prepared to discuss its recommendations for next year’s wage round and improve them if unions agree to changes to boost productivity and efficiency.
Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, made a new and improved offer to train drivers’ union Aslef of eight per cent for two years. The offer, signed by the Department for Transport, would take the average wage for a train conductor from £60,000 to £65,000.