Teacher strikes 2023: Everything you need to know, including whether you have to send your child to school on strike days

Everything parents need to know about the teacher strikes

An empty classroom
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Teacher strikes in 2023 are now very much a reality for parents and carers across England, after new dates have been announced.

Many of us parents understand that teachers have a tough job. They're spread thinly across a class of 30 children, and held accountable to many a red tape from the Government. But with rumours of a 4-daywork week, questions around whether the school day will be extended and fines for taking children out of school, the fresh wave of teacher strikes presents new questions for parents who want to know how it will affect them.

Joeli Brearley, Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed comments, "We support the national teachers’ strikes and believe that all teachers - who are predominantly women - deserve better pay and working conditions. We regularly hear from teachers who are quitting their much-loved careers because their pay doesn’t cover their childcare costs; we are losing talent from an incredibly important profession as a result. We need clear messaging from the government to ensure that the parents (who will predominantly be mothers) who are forced to take a day off work due to homeschooling are supported and do not face any negative consequences as a result."

Meanwhile, working mum-of-one, Jess tells us; "I think teachers deserve far better in terms of pay, so I am understanding." When asked how she'll deal with childcare on the proposed days, she replies; "Same as we did in lockdown I suppose. Though this time [my daughter] can do her Tricky Train words, number bonds, and mainline Disney +. I'm in the very privileged position of being able to do my job from home, not everyone can."

And Jess is right, everyone has a different dynamic. Below is everything you need to know to get your childcare ducks in a row. And, it's worth knowing that even if schools don't close, the strikes are likely to cause major disruption to pupils.

When are teachers striking?

The next round of teacher strikes will take place on Wednesday 5 and Friday 7 July, in England only. Previously, teachers in England held strikes on several days in February and March, and most recently on 27 April and 2 May.

These strike days are covered by an existing ballot of members, which closed in January and saw nine out of 10 teacher members of the NEU (National Education Union) vote for strike action, with the union passing the 50% ballot turnout required by law. 

Joint general secretaries of the union Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney said of the fresh wave of action: "Time and again the National Education Union, alongside its sister unions, have called for the Education Secretary to get around the negotiation table to settle this dispute for a fully-funded teacher pay increase. Time and again our calls have fallen on stony ground.  

"The Education Secretary refused to re-enter negotiation on the grounds that she and her Department were waiting for the publication of the School Teachers' Review Body’s recommendation on pay."

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has previously said the NEU's decision to reject a pay offer from the government "will simply result in more disruption for children and less money for teachers today".

She added, "The offer was funded, including major new investment of over half a billion pounds, in addition to the record funding already planned for school budgets."

The government said it had offered teachers a £1,000 payment for the current school year - on top of an average 5.4% rise last September - plus an average 4.5% rise next year. However, the NEU has called the pay offer "insulting" and said between 42% and 58% of schools would have to make cuts to afford it.

Why are teachers striking?

The main reason for the teacher strikes are workload and pay, with recruitment and retention proving a huge issue, which has a knock-on effect on the teachers already in working roles. 

For instance, shockingly, 1 in 8 maths lessons are taught by a teacher not qualified in maths. This is because of the shortage of teachers, as many are leaving the profession in favour of better-paid jobs, according to the NEU.

Mum-of-three, who declined to be named tells us; "I understand changes need to be made, I do. But we're in a cost of living crisis, and when these strikes are affecting me paying my own bills because I'll miss out on shifts, it's hard to stay supportive and empathetic."

General Secretary of National Education Union, Kevin Courtney spoke on BBC Radio 2 on the Jeremy Vine show about the 'crisis in our schools'. He explained why the union's members were voting to strike: "We are aware of so many schools where staff is leaving to go and work in supermarkets because they can be paid better.

"There are big problems in getting enough teachers in. Teacher pay has dropped in real terms by 13%.' When asked what teachers are hoping to achieve by striking, he replied: 'We are looking for something that will stop teacher pay falling and start making it go up. We don't want to go on strike but we have raised these issues by every other route we have and the government just isn't listening."

Former primary school teacher and mum-of-two Jas agrees; "It's not a race to the bottom, teachers are frontline, they are molding the future minds of our country. If their jobs are too important to stop then surely their pay should reflect that."

How much do teachers earn?

Starting salaries for teachers is £28,000 per annum in England and Wales, with opportunities for regular pay rises as skills develop and performance in the classroom is stronger, according to prospects.ac.uk. Below is what the salary of a Qualified teacher may look like;

  • England and Wales - £28,000 to £38,810
  • London - £29,344 to £40,083 / £32,407 to £43,193 / £34,502 to £44,756 
  • Scotland - £33,729 to £42,336
  • Northern Ireland - £24,137 to £41,094

The highest teaching salaries across the UK are paid to headteachers;

  • England and Wales - £50,122 to £123,057
  • London - £51,347 to £131,353
  • Scotland - £52,350 to £99,609
  • Northern Ireland - £47,381 to £117,497

Wages aside, primary school teacher and author, Lee Parkinson took to his Instagram platform to tell his 107k followers 'teachers aren't superheroes', and to remind them just how broken this system is and why school strikes are needed.

In his to-camera plea he starts by saying teachers aren't superheroes, teaching is not a vocation; "this narrative has allowed our education system to be decimated where staff is expected to do more with less... we are just as frustrated that funding isn't there... I just wish the same outrage was there when the Government cut free school meals.... Stop making out teachers can put up with anything because it's their calling."

He goes on to talk about how anyone outside of teaching has no idea of the true scope of the expectation of teachers. Before adding, "the education system is broken and it's going to need more than a wet paper towel."

Will private school teachers strike?

It has been reported that some independent schools may face walkouts as teachers at private schools can strike after their ballots met the threshold. Though, it wasn’t clear how many independent schools will be affected by this, and if your children attend a private school you should get in contact with them if you're unsure if you will be affected.

Will my school close?

Not necessarily, it's only schools with large numbers of NEU members in England that could close. It's up to headteachers to make the call, your school will make contact. 

Though as Headteachers aren't striking, they are expected to take "all reasonable steps" to keep schools open for as many pupils as possible during a strike, according to DfE guidance. If your child's school is part of an academy this decision is for the academy trust to make, but it is usually delegated to the headteacher of the academy to make and communicate.

Estimates from the NEU suggest 85% of schools will be fully or partially closed on national strike days. However, teachers are not obliged to tell their schools they are striking so parents may not know in advance whether their child's class will be running.

Should I still send my children to school on strike days?

Yes, according to educationhubblog.gov.uk, you still have to legally send your children to school if they are well enough to attend, unless school leaders inform you that the school is closed.

Will my child's nursery close too?

No, this strike action only applies to teachers of primary aged children, through to college teachers.

Can I take time off work?

You can legally, because it's within your statutory rights according to the Citizens Advice Bureau. Employees are allowed to take time off work to look after their children if it's necessary, but may not be paid for the time taken off. It's worth checking your workplace policy or speaking to HR. 

Will online learning be provided?

If your school closes then yes its likely online learning will be provided. The Department for Education (DfE) advised schools to use the advance notice period before strike action to develop contingency plans that aim to minimise the impact of any action.

Schools that are forced to close on the strike days may also provide activity days or pool resources across schools as opposed to opting for online learning.

If you're a parent with school-age children, you might also want to know about the £20 school run fine for waiting parents.

Stephanie Lowe
Family Editor

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodToKnow covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. Just keeping on top of school emails/fund raisers/non-uniform days/packed lunches is her second full time job.