Strike Action

Reading time: 4
shutterstock_301844315 Large group of people seen from above gathered together to form the text "WE ARE ONE" on a white background


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

Why are teachers striking? And are you unsure what you can and cannot do?

The use of the English word “strike” first appeared in 1768, when sailors, in support of demonstrations in London, “struck” or removed the topgallant sails of merchant ships at port, thus crippling the ships.

One Union:

I was a member of the NUT for 15 or 16 years before I became a senior leader. Then I joined ASCL on the recommendation of my headteacher and have to say, I’ve got more out of ASCL in the last few years than I ever did with my time with the NUT. But I don’t blame the NUT for this. It was due to the lack of awareness on my part, no social media to share stories with others – schools were very much silos twenty years ago – and with a very active NUT voice with the local authority, having a real picture was off-putting for any new teacher working in the 1990s within Haringey Council

I admire the work ASCL does, but I often think about re-joining the NUT after I met Kevin Courtney in December 2015. Despite shaping many policies and national debate, ASCL needs to do more to be disruptive and I often think we would be better as a profession, with just one union body.

I left the NUT at a school – where I witnessed teachers oust the current NUT representative; a wise and stellar man, sensible, thoughtful and full of wisdom. He was a colleague I respected and in his place, colleagues voted in ‘their mates’ by one vote. They lost my respect that day and I left the union the very next week …

shutterstock_393999157 a young caucasian man in jeans taking two coins of one euro out of his pocket

“… a 15 per cent fall in the value of their take home pay!”

Image: Shutterstock

Nicky Morgan’s announcement on 5 May, abandoning her White Paper proposals for forced academisation of all schools, does not represent any change in her ambition to make every school an academy – it is simply a change of tactics. (NUT Questions and Answers)

Why are Teachers Striking?

I support the reasons for the NUT strike on Tuesday 5th July, 2016, but this time I am not striking because my union (ASCL) did not ballot their members. On that note, “NUT members will walk out, after 91% of those who voted backed the action.

The turnout was just 25% of 330,000 members.

At the time, the NUT cited pay, pensions and workload as three key reasons for walking out. According to the union, pension contribution increases and pay restraint had meant that teachers had seen a 15 per cent fall in the value of their take home pay. Performance related pay (PRP) was also a key issue, along with the oft-quoted 60 hour working week.

Kevin Courtney, Acting General Secretary of the NUT, cited forecasts from the Institute for Fiscal Studies which predicted an 8 per cent cut in funding in real terms over the next few years.

shutterstock_80227009 LONDON - JUNE 30; Unidentified members of unions demonstrate outside parliament against government proposals during a demonstration organised by PCS and NUT trade unions in London on June 30, 2011

Image: Shutterstock

… the “de-regulation of teacher terms and conditions”. In plain English? Following the Government’s push to turn all schools into academies, decisions about pay and working conditions are increasingly being made at school level, rather than following a national standard. (The Telegraph)

Teacher FAQs:

If you are confused about what you can and cannot do, I hope the following highlights will help.

  • If your union votes to strike, as a member you have an obligation to do so.
  • If you didn’t vote, you can still take strike action.
  • However, after the decision has been made, as an individual, you still can make that decision for yourself. Individuals may feel guilty for doing so, but have their own circumstances to consider. The NUT says, “the NUT does not instruct members to take industrial action and individual members have a legal right to decline any call to take industrial action.”
  • Strike action means you do not go into work on the day the action is taking place. You do not have to phone your school on the day to tell them you are not coming in.
  • You can still join a union before strike day, even if you were not a member before; and strike on the day itself.
  • If you strike, you will not be paid for the day. Your pension contributions will also be deducted.
  • You do not have to tell your headteacher, but your NUT representative may ask for ‘hands up’ to gauge numbers.
  • This information – if provided – will inform the headteacher is they should remain open, be partially closed or close the school.
  • Don’t forget, any members of staff who are not in a union who is striking, do have to report to work.
  • If you are a supply teacher, you still have a right to strike. Check your terms and conditions.
  • Strike action includes members working in academies and free schools.
  • Headteachers belonging to a union taking strike action, can also strike.
  • NQTs can also strike as long as their absence does not exceed 30 days throughout the induction year.
  • School Direct and Overseas Teachers can also strike, including part-time teachers and those suspended from duty!
  • If you live in Wales, teachers are not taking strike action this time. This also includes 6th form teachers.
  • The NUT has no fixed policy on picket lines.
  • And remember, strike action should always be a last resort.

Save Our Schools Campaign:

Save Our Schools T-Shirt Campaign Strike Action NUT

You can read more at NUT Questions and Answers.

Consider Supporting the NUT’s Save our Schools campaign with a t-shirt, designed by Katharine Hamnett.

This design was organised by myself and Kevin Courtney – including the SaveOurSchools hashtag.

£5 from each t-shirt sale will go to the NUT (with £1 of this £5 going to Education Support Network, who I am a digital ambassador for).

I hope this blog helps, whatever your thoughts and decisions on the day.


We need one voice … Why not go for sustained action rather than sporadic days?

Trade Unions / Law:

For those who cannot remember, “the Conservative government made ‘significant changes’ to the way unions can call a strike.” Trade unions say the UK already has some of the toughest strike laws in the world.

MPs backed the Trade Union Bill, which proposes higher voting thresholds for ballots, by 33 votes at second reading. (BBC)

Strike Action BBC NUT

Image: BBC

According to the Department for Business the changes to the strike ballot rules include:

  • From 1st September, 2016, at least 50% of members entitled to vote must do so for ballots on industrial action to be valid.
  • 40% of those eligible to vote must back action for strikes in core public services.
  • Increasing to 14 days from seven days the notice a union must provide workers ahead of a strike.
UK’s biggest unions
Name No of members Industry it represents
Unite 1,310,649 Industry-wide
Unison 1,266,711 Public services
GMB 617,064 Industry-wide
USDAW 433,402 Retail and manufacturing
NUT 330,719 Teachers
NASUWT 293,024 Teachers
PCS 247,345 Civil service

Source: TUC (BBC news)


@TeacherToolkit logo new book Vitruvian man TT


2 thoughts on “Strike Action

  1. I concur with your wish for one teachers union, but as an experienced union activist it will never happen. Whenever either the NUT, or NASUWT, or both together take any firm action teachers opt out for an easier option citing they do not want to harm the future of the children. They cannot see that striking can enhance the future of the pupils. Another reason is the split between staff and management. Over the years governments have bribed Heads to accept the onslaught of initiatives. Supporting league tables, corrupt OFSTED etc. When will heads actually support their staff?
    I accept the government has to govern, set budgets etc. However why does the profession accept the government has the right to organise out teaching, curiculum etc. Government manage the NHS but does the minister tell doctors what operation they should do or how to do them?
    Education will always be impoverished until the WHOLE profession unites and resist any government interference on professional matters. Sadly it will never happen as every politician knows all about education and will not listen to a “profession” that accepts this and will not stand for themselves and their pupils.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.