UK Teachers to Strike Over Student Behavior as Exams Loom

Secondary school teachers in the UK to strike over student behavior issues, disrupting GCSE and A-Level exams amid a broader wave of industrial action across sectors.

Ayesha Mumtaz
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UK Teachers to Strike Over Student Behavior as Exams Loom

UK Teachers to Strike Over Student Behavior as Exams Loom

Secondary school educators across the United Kingdom are set to go on strike over growing concerns about student behavior and discipline issues, just as major GCSE and A-Level exams approach. The planned industrial action by teaching staff is part of a wider series of strikes expected to cause significant disruptions nationwide in the coming month, with railway workers, hospital personnel, national rail, and airport employees also participating in walkouts.

Teachers say the strikes are a response to the failure of school leadership and the government to adequately address worsening student behavior and classroom management challenges, which they argue are hindering their ability to effectively prepare students for the critical upcoming exams. The National Education Union (NEU) stated that 60 of its members at St Edward's College in West Derby, Liverpool will take part in the strikes after negotiations with the school's management broke down last week.

The school, which received a negative Ofsted report last year, said it recognizes the staff's right to strike but expressed concerns about the potential impact on students, especially those in exam years. The school's principal is set to step down at the end of the academic year. The NEU maintains that the school's handling of poor behavior and staff safety has been insufficient, despite efforts to resolve the issues.

Why this matters: The teachers' strike highlights the growing crisis of student behavior and violence in UK schools, with a record number of suspensions and incidents involving weapons reported. The disruptions come at a critical time for students preparing for major exams, raising concerns about the long-term impact on their academic performance and well-being.

The planned strikes at St Edward's College are just one example of the growing unrest among teachers nationwide. Educators have been grappling with an increase in poor student behavior and violence in recent years, with a rise in school suspensions and permanent exclusions. In a tragic incident earlier this year, two teachers and a pupil were stabbed at a school in Wales, underscoring the severity of the safety concerns in educational settings.

Teaching unions have warned that the situation has deteriorated, with some teachers even discussing the need for protective equipment such as stab vests and body cameras. Government data reveals a record number of school suspensions in England, and previous investigations have uncovered thousands of incidents involving weapons on school premises.

Experts and school officials have expressed alarm about the changing dynamics in schools. One long-serving school governor stated, "A teacher's job is very dangerous. Times have changed compared to the past when teachers were more respected and feared by students."

The strikes are expected to compound the challenges faced by students and families during an already difficult exam season. Teachers have reported spending an average of 6.5 hours per week addressing absent students, with over half saying that the rest of the class also suffers as a result. Reasons for the absences include anxiety, poor mental health, bullying, and lack of support for students with additional educational needs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to the problem, with some students falling behind and losing motivation to attend school. Additionally, cost-of-living pressures on parents have made it harder for them to provide uniforms or equipment. To encourage attendance, some dedicated teachers have gone above and beyond, such as visiting students' homes or offering extra tuition.

As the strikes loom, the NEU

Key Takeaways

  • UK teachers to strike over student behavior, discipline issues before exams
  • Strikes part of wider nationwide walkouts by various sectors, including healthcare
  • Teachers cite failure of school leadership, govt to address behavior problems
  • Record suspensions, weapon incidents highlight growing crisis in UK schools
  • Strikes to compound challenges for students during critical exam season