Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has expressed her disappointment at teachers’ going on strike, saying they don’t need to hold industrial action to gain “attention.”
Ms Keegan expressed her frustration after the National Education Union (NEU) members voted for strike action.
The walkout means thousands of teachers are set to down tools next month over salary and workloads.
Gillian Keegan promised to work with the group and be “as constructive as possible.”
Ms Keegan added: “You don’t need to strike to get my attention.”
The NEU has announced seven days of walkouts in February and March, affecting almost 23,000 schools in England and Wales.
Nine out of 10 teacher members voted for the move, and the union passed the 50 percent ballot turnout threshold required by law to hold the strike.
However, headteachers in England will not strike after the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) union poll turnout fell short of the legal standard.
The NEU claimed its vote indicated teachers were not prepared to “stand by” and watch the education service “sacrificed” due to “a toxic mix of low pay and excessive workload”.
The Department for Education has offered a five percent pay hike to most teachers for the current school year.
But the NEU sought a fully funded, above-inflation salary increase.
Ms Keegan said she held talks with the union in a bid to avoid walkouts, and they had “wider discussions” about the difficulties teachers faced, including workload.
But she acknowledged there weren’t any pay negotiations during the meeting.
She noted the focus needed to be on “more flexibility, job shares [and] being able to do part time [roles]”.
She added: “Our children don’t deserve it, to be honest. We do need to keep teachers and children in school.”
She said there will be another meeting with the union on Friday, January 20, to discuss the proposed salary offer “line by line”.
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The NEU’s proposed strike days are listed below:
• Wednesday 1 February: all eligible members in England and Wales
• Tuesday 14 February: all eligible members in England and Wales
• Tuesday 28 February: all eligible members in the Northern, North West, Yorkshire and The Humber regions
• Wednesday 1 March: all eligible members in the East Midlands, West Midlands, and Eastern regions
• Thursday 2 March: all eligible members in London, South East and South West regions
• Wednesday 15 March: all eligible members in England and Wales
• Thursday 16 March: all eligible members in England and Wales
Source: Sky News