About 85 per cent of schools in England and Wales are being affected by strike action today (Wednesday) – with many schools either fully or partially closed in the latest round of industrial action over pay. It’s the first of seven days of industrial action planned by members of the National Education Union (NEU) over the next few weeks.
Premier has been speaking to Christian teachers about how Christians can respond to the so-called winter of discontent.
Executive Officer at the Association of Christian Teachers Lizzie Harewood said :
“It's a real matter of conscience. Christians are called to follow God's will and to seek justice and fairness and therefore, advocating for the rights and fair treatment of workers will be a strong motivator for them. Certainly for Christians, I would hope and pray that they are assessing the situation really carefully, from a biblical perspective.
“The difference being a Christian makes to deciding whether or not to strike is significant, but it is a bit of a paradox. So there will be those that really peruse the scriptures and feel that Christians should work hard to serve with excellence. And that actually pay is a factor that they don't want to consider at this at this stage because they believe that perhaps they are paid fairly and are ultimately serving God. But there may be other issues in the surrounding context that many teachers will be concerned about, such as funding for schools, terms and conditions of employment. But this is a strike about teacher pay.
“There isn’t any easy right or wrong answer and we certainly as Christians need to be praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to inform our individual consciences and we need to recognise that this is an issue where we as Christians will disagree.
“One way we can show grace and humility is by bearing with one another and not backbiting. We need to show plenty of grace to government, to colleagues to friends and family members, even if we disagree with them.”
Steve Chalke, the founder of the Oasis network of schools told Premier his 52 schools were struggling with huge levels of disruption. But he said he believes under-investment in education has led to the strike action:
“Within five years, 40 per cent of new teachers that go through training leave the profession. We can't retain teachers nationally, so it’s long term underinvestment that this is really all about.
“I hope government ministers sit down with union leaders. I hope a good conversation is going on, so that the next strikes that are due to take place, can be avoided.”
The government said last summer that most teachers would receive a pay rise of about 5%, with starting salaries up by 8.9%, however teachers want an above inflation pay rise.
The next day of industrial action by the NEU will be in Wales on 14th February.