Cumbrian MP Says NEU Continuing With Teacher’s Strikes ‘Should Be A Source Of Shame’

By Rachael Grealish

Several Cumbrian MPs have told The Herdwick News they do not agree with teacher’s strikes this week, with one saying the NEU continuing with the industrial action ‘should be a source of shame’.

On Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 March, National Education Union (NEU) members in England will once again take nationwide industrial action.

Teachers in Wales were set to join the strike, but the NEU called it off after the Welsh government proposed a new pay offer.

The NEU states teachers are going on strike not only for a ‘fully-funded above inflation pay rise’ but also for funding for schools.

Several Cumbrian MPs Against Teacher’s Strikes

However, when The Herdwick News asked all Cumbrian MPs what they thought of the upcoming strikes several have said they are against the industrial action.

Mark Jenkinson, MP for Workington, has said he thinks the NEU ‘do not have the best interest of teachers, teaching or schools at heart’ and says the NEU refusing to pause the strike ‘should be a source of shame’.

He told The Herdwick News: “The National Education Union (NEU) remain an outlier on strike action, which should come as no surprise to those of us who have been taking notice over the last couple of years. Their response to everything is to close schools and to keep them closed.

“Throughout the pandemic we saw the toll that a loss of time in school takes on our children, but they campaigned consistently to keep schools closed, often holding Headteachers to ransom under the guise of Health and Safety.

“Other unions across all sectors have paused strike action and taken up the government’s offer to get around the table, and other teaching unions who have done so have this week called upon the NEU to do so. That they refuse to pause this strike and get around the table should be a source of shame. These strikes will continue the havoc wreaked upon students, parents and the majority of teachers that didn’t vote to strike.

“The NEU do not have the best interest of teachers, teaching or schools at heart, and are actively working against the best interests of our young people.”

The MP for Barrow and Furness, Simon Fell, explained although he was happy some unions had agree to pause the strikes he hopes the NEU would follow suit.

“I’m glad that a good number of unions have agreed to pause strike action to get around the table with the government and find a solution that works for both parties,” Fell said. “I note that NASUWT have called on the NEU to follow suit and prevent damaging strikes while negotiations continue. While they are yet to do this, I very much hope that they choose to do so – for the benefit of students, their parents, and employers.”

Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, thanked the teachers and school staff for their work over the past few years, but said he thinks ‘every single day spent in school with experienced teachers who know their students makes a difference to a child’s development’ and hopes for the best outcome for all.

“I appreciate that at this difficult economic time, schools and staff are feeling pressure from rising costs, and I want to thank every member of staff at schools across Penrith and The Border for the vital work they do in ensuring that our children are equipped with the skills they need to thrive.

“After two years of disrupted education due to the Covid-19 pandemic, every single day spent in school with experienced teachers who know their students makes a difference to a child’s development, and so I am even more keen to ensure the best outcome for staff and students through successful discussions between trades unions and officials from the Department for Education.

“The Secretary of State for Education and officials from the Department for Education (DfE) continue to meet the trades unions to try to find a solution. The Government’s priority will always be to keep schools open and to keep children in the classroom, and the DfE has issued guidance to school leaders to help with this process.”

NEU Blames Education Secretary For Industrial Action

The NEU has told The Herdwick News although they ‘regret the inconvenience’ caused by the strike action, but say the responsibility ‘lies squarely with the Education Secretary’, Gillian Keegan, for this industrial action needing to go ahead.

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, NEU: “The NEU regrets the inconvenience caused to parents, children and young people by strike action. The responsibility for this lies squarely with the Education Secretary.

“The NEU has said time and again we will meet for talks. As in Wales and Scotland, strike action was paused when a serious offer was made, and members were consulted on it.

Dr Bousted went on to say she thinks the Education Secretary is ‘digging’ her heels in, saying: “No preconditions were thought necessary by Scotland or Waves and as a result progress has been made. Gillian Keegan’s digging in of heels, and refusal to engage through Acas, has meant that England yet again lags behind other countries.

“Parents see daily the effect that the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, alongside woeful school funding, is having on their children’s education. While we sincerely apologise for this disruption on Wednesday and Thursday, we believe that parents recognise the need for change.”

The Herdwick News contacted Gillian Keegan who directed us to an open letter published today, Tuesday March 14, about her thoughts in which she says: “This strike action is completely unnecessary. As I said to the NEU three weeks ago, I want to get around the table and engage in serious talks on teachers’ pay and other issues to resolve disputes.”

Carlisle MP John Stevenson, Copeland MP Trudy Harrsion and Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, Tim Farron, were also contacted and have not yet responded.