Talks began this week to try and resolve the ongoing dispute between the two main teaching unions and the Department for Education (DfE).
The NASUWT and National Union of Teachers (NUT) have been running a joint campaign of industrial action against changes to pay and pensions, including the move to performance-related pay.
While the NASUWT has said it won’t strike this term, plans remain in place for an NUT strike on March 26. For more on the strike action, click here.
However, despite the talks, which began on Tuesday (February 25), the DfE issued guidance to school leaders earlier this month on what they should do to stay open if strike plans go ahead.
A number of suggestions are given by ministers, including using volunteers previously unknown to the school but who have Disclosure and Barring Service checks from “another walk of life”. It states: “These volunteers could work unsupervised with children subject to the headteacher carrying out a risk assessment.”
However, Heather Mitchell, an employment lawyer at Browne Jacobson specialising in education, said that heads would be wary at this aspect of the advice.
“Heads will view this advice with caution. It is essential that a thorough risk assessment is carried out and the guidance makes only fleeting reference to this.
“A balance will have to be struck between the benefit of the school remaining open and the risks, particularly with unknown, unsupervised volunteers. Our expectation is that this guidance will not have the desired affect of seeing significantly more schools remain open than on previous strike days.”
The DfE advice also suggests suspending teaching of the curriculum for the day to put on a whole school “activity day”, reminding schools that there is no legal requirement to teach the curriculum on strike days. The advice is at http://bit.ly/MnAX6R