A union has accused the government of using “unreliable” figures to claim the latest round of teachers’ strikes in England has had less of an impact than previous industrial action.
Figures from the Department of Education (DfE) suggest that regional strikes by members of the National Education Union (NEU) between February 28 and March 2 resulted in fewer school closures than a national strike by the same union on February 1.
The DfE said that on the day of the nationwide strike, more schools were open in each region than in the same region.
The union claims the figures are misleading as schools which only attended 0.1% of pupils could be classed as ‘partially open’.
At least 90% of students must be in class for a school to be considered fully open.
The NEU insisted student attendance rates should be included in the statistics, but on Thursday the DfE refused to respond to a request for information asking about the numbers, claiming they were “confidential”.
The union also said the figures are misleading because they give equal weight to schools of different sizes and that more recent student attendance figures show the Feb. 1 strike was more effective than previous data suggested.
A NEU spokesman said: “If the Government is to claim that the NEU strikes are having a minimal and diminishing impact, they must provide a full data release to support that claim.
“Until then, these reports should be taken with more than a pinch of salt.”
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “We have made a serious offer to the leaders of the National Education Union to pause the planned strikes so we can talk about pay, conditions and reform.
“Unfortunately, the NEU refused to call off the strike action this week, causing renewed disruption to families and thousands of children who have missed out on their education.
“The impact of school closures has been significantly less this time and I would like to thank our brilliant principals and the teachers who chose not to strike as they ensured more schools stayed open during this week’s strikes.
“My invitation to serious and intensive discussions on all areas of this dispute remains and I call on the NEU to accept the offer.”
The NEU members conducted industrial action in the North East, North West and Yorkshire on February 28th, in the Midlands and East Anglia on March 1st and in London, the South East and South West on March 2nd.
The union plans further strikes on March 15th and 16th across England and Wales.