Striking teachers will target the political backyards of Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan in the next step of their pay rise campaign.
Demonstrations are planned for the end of this month in the Prime Minister’s and Mrs Keegan’s constituencies. They will coincide with the next round of strikes, which will target regional areas one by one, starting with schools in Yorkshire and surrounding areas where Mr Sunak is the local MP.
Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “These politicians (Mr Sunak and Ms Keegan) make decisions that affect the education of every child. And it’s important that they realize that. We want the public and our members to bring the reality of the situation in our schools to the attention of the politicians who make these decisions. “
The independent has been told that the demonstrations were recently brought up at a meeting between unions and the Ministry of Education about the strikes. Sources said Ms Keegan asked union leaders: “Are you the ones organizing the demonstration in my constituency?”
As it ramps up its campaign, the NEU is also urging parents to contact their local MP to call for more investment in their child’s education. An estimated 200,000 teachers walked out at the beginning of the month when the NEU called a national strike, taking out all its members in England and Wales.
The next phase of the strikes will alternately target regional areas. The first, on February 28, covers the Prime Minister’s constituency of Richmond in Yorkshire. A rally will also be held in his chair as the union tries to get its message across to its constituents.
There will be strikes in the Midlands the following day, while the final day of the three-day action will focus on London and the South, with what the union hopes will be a large demonstration in Chichester, where Ms Keegan is the sitting MP.
The union has announced seven days of strikes across the country for mid-March, but promised each individual school will be hit on only four of those days.
Ms Keegan has taken a tough stance on the strikes, warning teachers that the stakes are at an all-time high and they risk affecting the education of children who have been missing out on classes for months due to the Covid pandemic.
But teachers say they have a strike mandate and, like nurses, they are also protesting what they say is not investing in schools. Earlier this week, the NEU suspended a planned strike in Wales after receiving a new wage offer from the Welsh government.
The union said the Welsh Government’s willingness to participate was in “sharp contrast” to the position of Westminster and Ms Keegan.
In England and Wales the average pay increase for teachers is 5 percent. But with inflation over 10 percent, unions say this amounts to a pay cut in real terms. North of the border, Scotland’s largest teachers’ union announced “targeted” strike action this week in the constituencies of key Scottish politicians, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Ms Keegan said the NEU’s disruptive action was “deeply disappointing”.
She said talks with unions were ongoing and she would continue discussions about pay, workload, hiring and retention.
Downing Street and the Department of Education have been approached for comment.