New laws will prevent teacher strikes from shutting down schools completely

New laws banning teacher unions from shutting schools on strike days will protect children during damaging pay disputes, Gillian Keegan has said.

The Education Secretary warned the crackdown will stop pupils being used as “pawns” in any future disruption.

Writing in the Daily Express she insists robust action is needed to ensure every youngster “gets a brilliant education” no matter where they live in the country.

Her intervention comes as the government announced plans for a minimum service level requirement during walkouts.

It means unions would be expected to ensure some threshold of staffing is provided on strike days so schools are not forced to completely shut.

Mrs Keegan said tough measures are needed because strikes by teachers over pay in the past year were some of the most disruptive on record, with 25 million days lost.

Don’t miss… More school strike misery as teachers back walk-out in blow to pupils

She had wanted unions to agree to minimum service levels on a voluntary basis but they refused.

The National Education Union blasted the proposals and said it did not “acknowledge the validity of MSLs given their impact on the fundamental right to strike”.

After talks collapsed Ms Keegan will now pull the trigger on legislation by launching a consultation as the first step.

She said: “In the last academic year, 10 days of strike action led to a staggering 25 million school days lost.

“This is a huge loss of learning, and the impacts couldn’t have been greater given it followed on from the pandemic.

“Children should not be pawns in the disputes of adults.

“My job as Education Secretary has one very simple objective and that’s to make sure everyone gets a brilliant education.”

After months of walkouts ministers finally brokered a pay agreement with four biggest teaching unions in the summer.

But plans for tough laws will likely open up a fresh row with the unions and trigger more anger.

Minimum service levels legislation for rail, ambulances and border security staff are hoped to be passed for Christmas.

Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The attempt to impose further restrictions on our democratic freedoms is shameful. This Government wants to be tough on strikes, but not on the causes of strikes.”

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “The Government continues to ignore the fact that it is impossible to secure minimum service entitlements for pupils in an education system so neglected and underfunded, instead opting to aggressively quash criticism with this inflammatory policy.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Minimum service levels are a profoundly illiberal policy by a Government that has lost the argument.

“Nobody wants to go on strike.

“It is action that is taken as a last resort when all else has failed.”

  • Support fearless journalism
  • Read The Daily Express online, advert free
  • Get super-fast page loading

Source: Read Full Article