This guidance applies to all members across the UK unless otherwise stated. Any advice that is specific to a particular government administration or jurisdiction is contained within individual FAQs where applicable.
Advice and FAQs
The legal position
Exam class dispensation
Showing support for other unions/crossing a picket line
Employer requests for information
Closure of my school/college
Closure of my child’s school/college
Being asked to cover for striking colleagues
Working from home/providing work for absent pupils
Sickness absence on strike days
Advice for headteachers/principals and other senior leaders
Additional advice for members in England on new DfE guidance
It is unlawful for any member of the NASUWT to take industrial action where the NASUWT has not given a specific notice to the employer advising that action will be taken.
The law states that a strike or other industrial action will be unofficial in relation to an employee unless they are:
a member of a trade union and the action is authorised or endorsed by that union; or
not a member of a trade union.
Members of a union that has not authorised or endorsed industrial action but who choose to strike would be taking unofficial strike action, which could result in the employer taking disciplinary action against them.
Guidance published by the DfE in England in this regard only relates to ‘non-union’ members.
Please read in conjunction with our other FAQs on Being asked to cover for striking colleagues below.
The NASUWT understands that the NEU has issued guidance around dispensations for their members that would allow them to teach Year 11 and Year 13 students in order to support these students in the run-up to examinations.
In some schools and trusts, arrangements are being planned that would involve suspending the normal timetable and dedicating a full day’s on-site session for Year 11 and Year 13 pupils focused on revision and examination preparation.
The NEU’s guidance would permit their members to exempt themselves from taking action and allow them to agree to participate in such sessions as long as they are paid for doing so.
Where such sessions are arranged, NASUWT members may agree to teach the Year 11 or Year 13 classes normally allocated to them even if they would not normally be timetabled to teach these classes on these days.
In doing so, NASUWT members would not be acting to undermine the industrial action of another union as these arrangements would have been agreed with the NEU.
However, these arrangements should be agreed with NASUWT members and must not involve any increase in workload burdens or denial of access to contractual entitlements such as PPA time.
Where schools decide instead to retain their existing timetable and not introduce ad hoc arrangements for Year 11 or Year 13 pupils on strike days, members should continue to follow the NASUWT’s advice that they should only teach the classes allocated to them on that day and should not teach any students who would otherwise be taught by a teacher taking industrial action.
NASUWT members should carry on with our instruction of not covering for striking colleagues in relation to non-examination classes.
Is it appropriate for unions that are taking industrial action to recruit members of the NASUWT to join them?
A founding principle of trade unions is solidarity. Amongst other things, that means not undermining sister unions by poaching members. Our movement is stronger where we work together in the interests of all of our members.
Union membership is an individual’s choice. It is therefore not appropriate for any trade union to deliberately and actively seek to poach members of other trade unions to bolster industrial action. This contravenes TUC principles which state:
“All affiliates of the TUC accept as a binding commitment to their continued affiliation to the TUC that they will not knowingly and actively seek to take into membership existing or ‘recent’ members of another union by making recruitment approaches, either directly or indirectly, without the agreement of that organisation.”
The NASUWT has not entered into any agreements permitting other unions to take into membership members of the NASUWT.
Membership of the TUC also commits unions to take steps to ensure that they are not poaching members of another unions, whether intentionally or otherwise. The TUC Code states:
“In all cases where present or past trade union membership is indicated, the union to which the application has been made will immediately inform the present or former union in writing, giving names, grades and location, so that it may discuss the matter with the individual(s) concerned.”
I have been told that the best way to support strike action by other unions is by becoming a member of another union or by ending my membership of the NASUWT. Is that right?
No, it isn’t. We want members to stay with the NASUWT and we believe it’s in the best interests of members to stay with the NASUWT. The NASUWT, together with NEU, NAHT, EIS, SSTA, AHDS, UCAC, ASCL and other unions are all in dispute with governments on the issue of teachers’ pay. We are committed to working together with our sister trade unions to secure the best deal for our members.
No unions are asking members of the NASUWT to leave to join another union in order to take strike action with them. Doing so would undermine important principled commitments made by every TUC-affiliated union. Our responsibility is to do nothing that would undermine industrial action by our sister trade unions.
Members should also consider that:
by ending your membership of the NASUWT in order to take part in strike action with members of other unions, you could be at risk of disciplinary action by your employer;
leaving the NASUWT to join another union could also remove the rights you have accrued as a member of the NASUWT, including your right to legal support and representation for any employment-related matters that relate to the period in which you were a member of the NASUWT. It is unlikely that any other union would provide legal support and representation for matters that arose prior to you joining them.
Do not forget: the NASUWT remains in dispute with the Government and our commitment remains to pursue all disputes with industrial action with the support of our members.
My school will be closed on a strike day. Can I join colleagues in another union on their picket line?
If the school is closed on a day when you would normally work, you should report to work as usual unless directed to work from home by the school.
You can support colleagues by expressing solidarity for their action, but you should not join a picket line.
Members in receipt of facility time should carry out their normal duties supporting NASUWT members.
It may be sensible to email your employer on the day to state you are on facility time and are carrying out your normal duties.
I am an NASUWT activist and have been invited to attend and speak at another union's strike rally. What is your advice?
As trade union activists, we would always want to express our solidarity to sister unions but members should do so appropriately and ensure that they do not place themselves or the Union at risk.
If you attend a strike rally but should be at work on the strike day, then this is a risk. You are expected to be available for work and would not have secured permission from your employer.
Moreover, for activists in receipt of facility time, there is a further risk for themselves and for the Union.
Facility time is granted by the employer to enable you to undertake trade union duties. If you are on facility time on a strike day, you should carry out your normal duties supporting NASUWT members.
Attending rallies could be construed as taking unofficial/unauthorised action and therefore could result in disciplinary action.
How can I show my support to members of other unions on the day of their strike action? What can I do?
All teacher unions are fighting for better pay for teachers and headteachers. It is therefore right that members show their solidarity with colleagues in other unions when they are taking industrial action.
There are a number of things you can do:
If you are in work on the day of a strike, refuse to undertake the work of your striking colleagues.
Express your support to colleagues on the picket line. Assure them of your solidarity.
In many other disputes where NASUWT members are already taking industrial action, members of other unions have provided support with refreshments and supportive comments that help bolster morale.
I voted to support strike action and I do not want to undermine industrial action by other unions. What should I do?
Crossing a picket line does not undermine other unions taking part in industrial action and all unions will advise their members to report for work when another union is taking industrial action.
Members have every right to be angry about government cuts to teachers’ pay. The only reason members have been prevented from taking industrial action is because the government has imposed arbitrary rules that prevent you from doing so. We must continue to stand together to demand the repeal of anti-trade union laws.
The NASUWT insists that members should not undermine industrial action by other unions. Doing so, would weaken trade union solidarity and allow governments and employers to divide and rule. This would mean further damage to the working conditions of teachers across the board.
Members can ensure they do not undermine colleagues in other unions by ensuring that they:
do not co-operate with employers if you are asked to confirm in advance whether you will be available to work on the day of a strike. By law, there is no requirement or obligation for NASUWT members to tell their employer or headteacher whether they are a member of the NASUWT or whether they will be attending work on the day of a strike. Your employer will already have been notified by unions taking industrial action of the number of their members who are being asked to take the action.
do not undertake or cover the work of members of other unions who are taking industrial action. Members employed in schools/colleges cannot be required by law to cover the work of striking workers.
do not agree to undertake supply work on the day of a strike.
Where NASUWT members have not been instructed to take strike action, they are required to report for work.
Where a union taking strike action establishes a picket line, refusal to cross it would render a teacher who is not a member of the union(s) taking strike action liable to disciplinary action, including the deduction of salary, as it would be considered as participating in unlawful industrial action.
The single exception to this is where there are genuine grounds to believe that crossing the picket line would put the person concerned at risk of injury. In these circumstances, NASUWT members should contact the headteacher/principal, or an appropriate senior person in the school/college or an appropriate person in the employing authority, if the headteacher/principal is not available. They should also contact the NASUWT to advise what has taken place and to seek further advice and support.
In all other circumstances, members should cross the picket line having assured those picketing that they will not be undertaking the work of those on strike.
While an employer may choose to deduct salary for a day when a member has refused to attend the workplace by not crossing a picket line, it must be borne in mind that any such failure to report for work may be regarded as unofficial industrial action and could result in individual employees facing disciplinary action by their employer.
In the event of strike action by members of premises, cleaning or catering staff, the headteacher/principal must undertake a risk assessment, in consultation with all staff and trade union representatives, to ensure the health and safety of staff and pupils on site at all times during any period of industrial action.
In the event that health and safety is compromised, including requirements for regular cleaning and for maintaining Covid safety, the NASUWT will expect that facilities should be closed to pupils and staff.
There should be no expectation placed on members of the NASUWT to undertake the work of premises staff, cleaners or catering staff.
If a member is instructed to do so by the headteacher/principal, they should protest, ask the headteacher/principal to put the instruction in writing and notify the NASUWT immediately.
The law does not permit employers to seek this information. Such enquiries could be tantamount to intimidation by the employer and would be unacceptable.
There is no requirement or obligation for employees to provide information to their school/college as to whether or not they will be taking industrial action. Indeed, the DfE guidance Handling strike action in schools. Guidance for school leaders, governing bodies and employers (January 2023) also confirms that ‘employees are not required to tell their employers whether they intend to take strike action’.
Employers will have been notified by any unions taking strike action of the number of members they have at any individual workplace. It is a matter for the employer to base any planning and risk assessments on the information that has been supplied to them.
There is no requirement or obligation for NASUWT members to advise their employer whether they will be in work or not ahead of the day of any strike action.
Members are strongly advised not to provide such information if they are requested to do so.
No. Information on the names of NASUWT members is classed as private and sensitive information under the Data Protection Act and may not be provided without the express written consent of the person(s) named.
My school has asked that I supply them with information to assist with planning for the strike day on 1 February. Can they do this?
We are aware that many employers are requesting information from staff regarding their intentions on 1 February. It should be noted that these are referred to as ‘voluntary’ or ‘optional’ and, as such, there is no requirement for you to respond.
Other than reporting for work, NASUWT members are under no obligation to provide further information to the employer, as the requirement to inform the school of the number of staff taking industrial action rests with the relevant trade union.
There is also no obligation for you to tell your employer that you are a member of the NASUWT.
Members are strongly advised not to provide such information if they are requested to do so.
Should your school/college seek this information ahead of 1 February 2023, or on subsequent planned days of industrial action, you might find one or more of the following statements useful if you feel it necessary to respond:
In regard to the form recently circulated for staff to complete, I understand this is optional
and, as such, will not be completing it.
As you will appreciate, I am under no obligation to disclose membership of a trade union or my intentions on a day of industrial action other than to report to work if appropriate.
Any obligations in respect of health and safety and the completion of risk assessments rests with the employer and I am sure you will be informed of the number of staff taking industrial action accordingly.
If your employer continues to persist, then please alert the NASUWT.
Under health and safety legislation, your employer has a legal duty to ensure that your school/college is safe to open. Your employer is required to provide to all staff a risk assessment which confirms the measures that will be taken to keep your workplace safe at all times.
If a school/college cannot confirm that it is able to maintain safe staffing levels on the day of a strike, then the school/college should be closed.
Where members have concerns that a suitable risk assessment is not in place prior to the day of any strike action, they should contact the NASUWT immediately.
If the school is closed, our members should not be given tasks to do which they would not normally be doing.
They can get on with their own planning and marking. The headteacher does not need to invent tasks for them to do.
Headteachers/principals will need to make a judgement about whether the school/college can remain fully open, partially open, i.e. some year groups/class sent home, or will close.
The NASUWT Workplace Representative will need to confirm that the headteacher/principal has undertaken a risk assessment based on the potential impact on the school/college of the absence of staff who will be involved in the strike action.
If the decision is made to close the school/college, the headteacher/principal will decide whether it is closed only to pupils. Staff not involved in strike action should report to work or remain at home if directed by the headteacher/principal to do so.
NASUWT members should follow the instruction of the headteacher/principal in this matter. However, the NASUWT does not believe it makes much sense for those not taking action to be instructed to attend if all pupils are remaining at home. If there is any risk to safety as a result of the instruction of the headteacher/principal, members should contact the NASUWT immediately.
If pupils are remaining at home and staff are being asked to report to work, in these circumstances the NASUWT would need to be satisfied that the work that members would be directed to undertake in school/college in the absence of pupils would not constitute any element of work which would normally be undertaken by a member of staff on strike and also that the work they are being directed to do is reasonable and commensurate with their contract. There should be no expectation placed on NASUWT members to teach or set and/or mark the work of pupils they would not normally teach who are at home due to the absence of members of other unions who are taking industrial action.
Contact should be made immediately with the NASUWT for advice if members have any concerns about the work being allocated to them in school. The same applies if any employer suggests that NASUWT members should work from home as this opens up questions about, for example,
appropriate risk assessments, energy costs, IT equipment, etc.
NASUWT members should not suffer any salary deduction if the school closes.
Where a school/college remains partially open and certain classes/year groups are sent home, NASUWT members should not agree to timetable variations to accommodate classes or pupils who would normally have been taken by those taking action. The NASUWT would need to establish with the headteacher/principal that members who are working with their normal classes will be able to access all the necessary services to ensure the health, safety and welfare of themselves and the pupils.
What should I do if I need to stay at home because my child’s school is closed due to strike action by another union?
Notice of the closure of a child’s school may not be given to parents until the week of the strike.
Given this, a member may not know the situation in advance and whether or not they are required to take leave to care for their child if their child’s school is closed.
If the school is closed, members are advised in the first instance to see if the school/college has a Leave of Absence Policy which permits time off for dependants.
Many schools do give discretionary paid leave for one to five days. The member would then have to request leave from the school.
If there is no such policy/provision, members are entitled to take statutory unpaid leave for dependants.
The NASUWT is aware that some schools are seeking to prevent teachers with caring responsibilities from taking the necessary leave, citing the fact that action by another union is foreseeable.
However, the NASUWT believes this is wholly unacceptable given that many parents and children will not be aware of the situation until 1 February.
Please read in conjunction with our FAQ on Exam class dispensations above.
I have refused to undertake the work of a striking colleague and have now been provided with a written instruction to do so. What should I do?
If you have received a written instruction you should register your protest, but then comply with the instruction to protect yourself.
Below is a form of words that you can use in response to the written instruction:
I refer to the request that I undertake the work of striking colleagues. I write to put you on notice that I do not believe that you should be compelling me to cover for striking colleagues. Therefore, I do not agree that the changes that you are proposing are necessary or appropriate.
Whilst I intend to undertake the additional tasks, so as to avoid any suggestion that I am failing to follow a reasonable instruction, I reserve all my rights in relation to any potential breach of contract by my employer and to pursue all legal avenues available to me.
You should then contact the NASUWT at [email protected].
I am a teacher employed as a cover supervisor. Can I be directed to cover striking colleagues’ classes?
Members are advised to check the specific terms of their contract and establish whether it includes any element of general cover for absent colleagues.
If the cover supervisor’s job description details this as one of their normal roles, then they can be asked to cover for absent colleagues. Refusal to do so could result in disciplinary action for failure to follow a reasonable management instruction and/or breach of contract.
If, however, you are employed to specifically provide PPA cover, and not absence cover, then you should not be directed to cover for a striking colleague.
Can NASUWT members be directed to a supervisory role? They would not be teaching students of other colleagues, but perhaps supervising them in the library etc.
No! Where a school/college remains partially open and certain classes/year groups are sent home, NASUWT members should not agree to timetable variations to accommodate classes or pupils they would not normally teach, such as those pupils of teachers taking industrial action.
This would include situations where they would be expected to supervise students in a library, as this is still undertaking cover for absent colleagues.
The risk assessment would need to confirm that members who are working with their normal classes will be able to access all the necessary services to ensure the health, safety and welfare of themselves and the pupils. If this isn’t possible then the school should be closed.
After returning from maternity leave to a part-time contract with a PPA timetable, I have been asked to cover classes of striking colleagues. Can I refuse to cover striking teachers’ lessons? (England and Wales)
A teacher timetabled to teach PPA, who the previous year might have taught a year group, is not a teacher employed to provide cover.
They are a teacher who has been timetabled to do PPA teaching.
If you undertake PPA cover as a teacher, this forms part of your contract of employment. You should not be expected to provide cover other than rarely and in situations that are unforeseen. Strike action is not unforeseen.
My job share partner is striking on 1 Feb. We both work on a Wednesday. Will I be expected to undertake the work my partner would normally do?
If two job share partners work on the same day and one is on strike, it will depend on whether you team teach or have a split timetable and what is set out in your contract.
If you operate team teaching on the same day, and your contract states that one partner would take the class on their own in the absence of the other teacher, then you could be expected to teach the class on your own for the whole day.
If however you and your job share partner operate a split timetable - e.g. one of you is timetabled to teach the class in the morning and the other job share partner is timetabled to teach the same class in the afternoon - then you should not be asked to cover your partner’s afternoon session, unless this is specified in your contract.
No. It is vitally important that as members of the NASUWT, we demonstrate solidarity with other colleagues who are taking part in official industrial action.
Members should not be asked to cover the work of colleagues in other trade unions when they are taking part in industrial action.
NASUWT members should not agree to teaching classes or groups, collapsed classes, timetable changes, supervising classes or groups, providing work for classes or groups, or undertaking any supervision of pupils that would normally be carried out by other colleagues who are taking part in industrial action authorised by their trade unions.
Any request by your employer to perform the duties of a colleague who is participating in official strike action is not acceptable and would not constitute a reasonable management instruction.
Cover refers to taking a class or group assigned to another teacher who is absent for any reason. Members must not cover the work of other employees who are taking part in official industrial action.
Any attempt by an employer to seek to undermine industrial action by asking NASUWT members to undertake the work of other colleagues would constitute strike breaking and would be unreasonable and unacceptable.
If you are verbally asked to cover the work of colleagues in other unions, ask for a signed written instruction and pass a copy immediately to your NASUWT Representative, Local Secretary, National Executive Member or to your National/Regional Centre.
Should I cover classes or other responsibilities for colleagues taking industrial action if I am offered additional pay or time off elsewhere?
No. Members must not cover the work or undermine the industrial action of colleagues who are taking part in official industrial action.
If I refuse a written instruction to undertake the work of other colleagues who are taking industrial action, what are the possible consequences?
The NASUWT will not accept unacceptable or bullying employer behaviour. Members should contact the Union for support where there are concerns.
Where necessary, the NASUWT will declare a dispute with individual employers and ballot members for industrial action to protect members from threats, bullying or other intimidation by their employer.
The NASUWT will take a robust stance against any employer, legally and industrially, where an employer chooses to take punitive action against members who refuse to cover the work of other colleagues who are taking part in industrial action.
This would not be acceptable to the NASUWT as it would involve NASUWT members covering the work of other teachers who are taking industrial action.
The annual school calendar of events should have been consulted on and agreed with the recognised trade unions and staff prior to the summer break. This allows staff to plan their own activities and commitments.
This should not be subject to change, including as a consequence of industrial action.
The term ‘partial performance’ refers to circumstances where an employee does not fulfil the duties and requirements as set out in their contracts of employment. It is important that members look carefully at their contracts of employment to understand the duties and requirements that may apply to them.
If an employer refuses to accept ‘partial performance’, they are required to notify any affected employees in advance in writing that they have the right not to attend work (and not get paid).
Where an employer refuses partial performance and sends employees home, members may not be required to undertake any work for the employer during that time.
My employer has stated that it will accept ‘partial performance’ and will deduct a proportion of my daily salary for tasks that I refuse to undertake. Is that acceptable?
Such deductions may be unlawful. Members should report immediately to the NASUWT where this arises.
The Union would look to challenge such action legally and also consider balloting members at the school/college for industrial action.
As a headteacher or Senior Management Team (SMT) member, should I be carrying out activities to mitigate the effect of strike action by another union?
The NASUWT does not accept that it is the role of headteachers or SMT members to undermine industrial action by other unions.
The responsibility of school and college leaders is to ensure that the school/college can open safely for any pupils and staff who may be on site. This will require that a risk assessment be undertaken in anticipation of strike action by other unions. Where safety concerns cannot be addressed, such mitigation as necessary should be considered, including determining whether it is safe for the school to open during the period of industrial action.
During periods of industrial action by other unions, NASUWT leadership members should continue to undertake their normal duties and responsibilities for running the school/college, including:
ensuring arrangements are in place for the safe physical opening of the building;
ensuring there are adequate arrangements in place to ensure the safety and security of the building, employees and pupils attending the site during and at the end of the day.
A long-term supply teacher has a contract with an agency but has been in the same school for three weeks and he should be teaching there until March. What should they do on strike day? Should they refuse to work that day or do they have to go in and cover or just go in and refuse to cover?
An NASUWT supply teacher on a long-term assignment would need to report for work to the school where they are undertaking the assignment as they would on any other day.
The supply teacher should expect to cover the classes assigned to them during the day of industrial action.
The supply teacher could refuse to cover other classes, but, depending on their contract of employment, the member could be directed to undertake other work in order to be paid for that day.
If the supply teacher decides not to report to work then it is highly likely they will not be paid for that day, and, depending on the contract of employment, the school could decide to terminate the contract with the supply teacher.
In regard to teachers on short-term, day-to-day supply, the Union appreciates that the repeal of the ban on supplying agency workers during strikes has put you in a very difficult situation in respect of industrial action taken by another union.
This is why the Union has launched a legal challenge over the repeal of Regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 to avoid situations where supply teachers are placed in such an invidious position.
The Union would suggest that supply teachers do not undertake an assignment on a day of industrial action by another union by stating that they are unavailable to work when asked by the agency/umbrella company, but recognise that, due to the intermittent, insecure and precarious nature of supply work, this may not always be feasible.
Yes - if the school is closed you can be directed to work from home.
You would need to be satisfied that the work you would be directed to undertake in school/college in the absence of pupils would not constitute any element of work which would normally be undertaken by a striking colleague and also that the work they are being directed to do is reasonable and commensurate with their contract.
There should be no expectation for NASUWT members to set or mark work or teach the pupils of those teachers from other unions who are taking industrial action.
My school is expecting teachers who are not taking industrial action to provide remote learning if the school is closed to pupils. Is that OK?
It is potentially reasonable for an employer to ask non-striking teachers to provide work for pupils they would have taught on a strike day if these pupils are not able to attend school physically.
It is not reasonable for you to be asked to provide such work for pupils you would not normally be timetabled to teach.
However, this does not mean that this work must involve live streamed lessons. Remote learning can be organised asynchronously, where pupils engage with work set in advance by their teacher or through access to recorded resources.
There is a wide range of existing resources available to support provision on this basis, including those available through the Government-funded Oak National Academy. The content and nature of this work should be determined through the exercise of the teachers' professional judgement.
Where a school or employer proposes that live streamed lessons are used to deliver remote learning, the NASUWT is clear that such a proposal would only be reasonable if all the provisions set out in the Union's checklist on live streaming are in place.
No. Normal arrangements for notifying the employer of sickness absence continue to apply.
Where an employee is unwell, they should report to their employer that they are unwell and will not be attending work.
Employees are entitled to self-certify for the first seven days of sickness absence, following which a fit note will be required.
I have received an email which states that a medical certificate must be obtained for sickness on a strike day. Most NHS doctors will not supply this. The suggestion is pay will be deducted without a certificate. Is this allowed?
If the member is ill on the day of industrial action, there is no requirement to submit a fit note until you have been absent in excess of seven days, as individuals are able to self-certify.
Healthcare professionals cannot issue fit notes for non-medical problems and do not issue them until an individual has been absent in excess of seven days. To ask them to do so would put additional and unreasonable pressure on the NHS at a time of unprecedented stress on the health sector.
If any member was subject to punitive action as a result of being ill on a day of industrial action, the NASUWT would robustly challenge this by all means available.
Teachers working in maintained schools in England and Wales, as well as the overwhelming majority of teachers in academies, are bound by the contractual provisions of the Burgundy Book, which does not place any such expectation on a member prior to the eighth day of absence.
How do I operate as a head of department if I have a member of my team striking? Do I have to set cover/amalgamate class groups - again I am concerned about the health and safety implications?
As appropriate, as a HOD you may be required to undertake a risk assessment and identify any additional risk and control measures and present this for sign-off by the school leadership.
It’s not for a HOD to make staffing decisions about how such an absence should be covered.
NASUWT members should not agree to timetable variations to accommodate classes or provide work for the classes for teachers undertaking industrial action.
NASUWT headteacher/principal members should have received notice either directly to the school or via the employing authority giving notice of the strike action. The notice should contain the number of teachers the union taking the strike has called upon to take strike action.
The NASUWT headteacher/principal may wish to confirm that figure with the Workplace Representative of the relevant union but should not ask for the names of individual teachers who are taking strike action.
A risk assessment should then be conducted to determine whether the school will be closed to all pupils or partially closed with some classes being excluded for the day. If the school is closed fully to all pupils, the headteacher/principal will need to determine whether the school will be open to all staff who are not engaged in the strike action.
Please see the advice above to members, which covers the factors that should be taken into consideration when arriving at a decision.
NASUWT headteacher/principal members should write to parents making clear the arrangements for the day of the strike. It is important to avoid naming or identifying teachers who are on strike in any communication with parents as this could lead to a legal challenge under data protection provisions.
Where the school will be open or partially open to staff and/or pupils, NASUWT headteachers/principals should ascertain whether the union on strike is planning to mount a picket at the school. If a picket is to be mounted, the headteacher/principal should make clear that they expect staff/pupils entering the building to be treated professionally.
If an NASUWT deputy/vice-principal is working in a school where the headteacher/principal is a member of the union taking strike action, they are advised to ask the headteacher/principal in advance of the strike what they are planning to do on the day of the strike.
If the headteacher/principal states in advance that s/he is intending to be on strike and asks an NASUWT deputy/vice-principal to run the school, the deputy should ask the headteacher/principal if s/he is instructing her/him to do so. If the answer is yes, the deputy/vice-principal may wish to raise with the headteacher/principal the appropriateness of this instruction but must ask for the instruction to be put in writing.
The deputy/vice-principal should ask for a copy of the risk assessment the headteacher/principal has undertaken for the strike. The deputy/vice-principal should contact the NASUWT for advice.
Absence of the headteacher/principal on strike action
If the school is scheduled to be wholly or partly open on the day of the strike and the headteacher/principal does not attend for work on that date, the deputy/vice-principal should carry out their normal responsibilities in deputising for the headteacher/principal. The deputy/vice-principal will, on that day, have to make their own decision about whether the school should stay open based upon their own risk assessment.
NB. The above advice would also apply in schools where there is no deputy/vice-principal or an assistant head who has a job description that requires them to deputise for the headteacher/principal.
If an NASUWT assistant head works in a school where the headteacher/principal and deputy/vice-principal are members of the union taking strike action, they will need to ask the headteacher/principal in advance of the date of the strike what arrangements are being made for the day of the strike.
If there is an expectation by the headteacher/principal that the NASUWT assistant head will take responsibility for the school, the headteacher/principal should be advised that this is inappropriate and the NASUWT assistant head should contact the NASUWT for advice immediately.
DfE: Handling strike action in schools. Guidance for school leaders, governing bodies and employers (updated April 2023)
The DfE has published guidance for schools. The DfE guidance is advisory only and is not statutory.
The NASUWT expects employers to take appropriate decisions in managing the provision of service during any period of industrial action.
The NASUWT rejects any attempts by employers to undermine official industrial action by any trade union or any attempt to seek to deploy NASUWT members to undermine industrial action by a sister trade union.
The NASUWT has not been consulted on the content of the DfE guidance and will continue to challenge the advice of the DfE.
If you require a response from us, please DO NOT use this form. Please use our Contact Us page instead.
In our continued efforts to improve the website, we evaluate all the feedback you leave here because your insight is invaluable to us, but all your comments are processed anonymously and we are unable to respond to them directly.