Today the Government launched a consultation to introduce new safeguards for the education of children and young people during any future strike action Planned steps will provide greater reassurance and certainty for children and parents.
Minimum service levels will ensure that in the event of any future strike action, children and youth can continue to receive education and are not deprived of any essential education. The law brings us in line with countries like France, Italy, Spain where public services continue reliably during industrial action.
This year’s school strike was part of the biggest outbreak of industrial action in a generation, with far-reaching consequences across the education system. In schools alone, over 25 million school days were lost during the 10 strike days.
The strike action also comes at a time when schools and colleges are trying their best to recover from the impact of Covid on the education of children and youth. Setting regulations for minimum service levels will help protect our children’s education time from further disruption caused by industrial action.
The consultation invites views on several proposals. These include priority attendance for vulnerable children and youth, test groups, critical staff children and primary school students, as well as the use of rota for strikes lasting five days or more.
Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said:
Keeping children in school is my number one priority. Last year’s school strikes were some of the most disruptive on record for children and parents with 25 million cumulative days lost, in addition to strike action that adversely affected college and university students.
We cannot afford a repeat of that disruption – especially as young people continue to emerge from the pandemic.
While I know many schools and colleges have worked really hard to keep children and youth in face-to-face education during the strike, we must ensure that the approach is implemented in every school, in every area of the country.”
The decision follows recent talks between the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, and education trade unions to explore voluntary contracts in schools and colleges.
Although discussions with education unions have been constructive, not enough progress has been made to ensure the protection of children and young people for the next academic year.
The government has therefore taken steps to open a nine-week consultation to hear the views of parents, young people and the education sector on how best to ensure minimum service levels in schools, colleges as well as higher education institutions.
Many school and college leaders have worked hard to keep classrooms open and have prioritized spaces for students and students sitting external exams, vulnerable children and children of critical staff.
The Government’s proposals set out minimum service levels that would ensure groups most in need of face-to-face education could continue to access education on strike days.
The government is also looking for evidence of the impact of strike action in higher education to determine whether a minimum service level could mitigate the impact of any future strike action.
Earlier this month, the prime minister announced that a minimum service level law would be passed for railway, ambulance and border force workers to prevent disruption to the public if a strike is called.