01 Feb

Image Credit: @BenRPrice/Twitter

A large majority of schools across Cardiff have been shut today (1 February), as teachers part of the National Education Union (NEU) walk out over pay, jobs and conditions.

The NEU represents the majority of teachers and education professionals in the UK.

Today was only the first of four days of industrial action by teachers and support staff in Cardiff and the rest of Wales, with further walk-outs expected on February 14, March 15 and March 16.

Gillian Keegan, Education Secretary for the UK Government, told BBC Breakfast that it "makes no sense to give inflation-busting pay rises to some of the workforce" at a time when prices are rising for everyone.

When Mrs Keegan was asked this morning about how many schools would stay open, she struggled to estimate the scale of pupils that would be impacted, saying to Sky News:

"We don’t know that, we’ll know later today. We have done a survey that a lot of headteachers have responded to … the majority of schools will remain open. Some will open with restrictions, some will open to everyone. But we’re very disappointed that any are closing."

Yesterday before the strikes, a Welsh Government spokesperson said:

"We have held constructive meetings with unions and these will continue.

"We want to reassure learners, parents and carers that we are working with partners to resolve the current dispute and that we understand the strength of feeling amongst the education workforce.

"Unlike the UK Government, we are not responding to the strikes by bringing forward new, draconian laws, which would restrict workers' rights.  Instead, we are working in social partnership with unions to explore a way to resolve the current dispute."

Signs created for today's NEU rally in Cardiff, aimed at the UK Government - Credit: @rachelmay1990/Twitter

Daily surveying app, Teacher Tapp, polled almost 8,200 teachers on Sunday, of whom 14% said their school was planning to close to all pupils, while 44% said their school would close "for some pupils". London schools look set to be among the most disrupted, with 23% of teachers polled in the capital said their schools would close for all pupils.

The National Education Union has expressed its anger at the Government recently, after it missed its target for new secondary school teachers by 41 per cent this year.

This means that the gap between teachers needed and trainees recruited are becoming increasingly alarming, with many students in schools across Wales and the rest of the UK having to be taught by staff who are not qualified in the subject they are teaching - the NEU says.

It is said that one in eight maths lessons are taught by a teacher not qualified in the subject, and one in four teachers who qualified within the last decade have quit.

It is thought that the industrial action today is the biggest in more than a decade - with over 500,000 workers taking part.

As well as teachers, civil servants, university staff and train drivers are also walking out on their jobs.

The 'Right To Strike' rally in Cardiff today - Credit: Wales TUC Cymru

Welsh Youth Parliament Member for Cardiff North, Ruben Kelman told The Cardiff News:

"Speaking to teachers over the past week, it is clear that they are striking for the future of young people’s education. Whilst their pay may be a factor, the crumbling school buildings & hollowing out of school budgets as well as non-specialist teachers & the general lack of staff all pay question. 

"Teachers really do care about their pupils & their futures. Teachers want to be in the classroom teaching them but they have been pushed to this over years of cutbacks.

"I am supporting all teachers across Wales, but especially in my constituency of Cardiff North."

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