The press release issued by the Department for Education on 20 October 2023.
Minimum service levels (MSLs) to protect children and young people’s education are set to be introduced in schools and colleges, the government has announced today (Friday 20 October).
The proposals will put in place protections for children, young people and parents to ensure education can continue during any future strike action.
The announcement follows the disruption during industrial action last academic year, which resulted in over 10 days of action in schools, leading to 25 million school days that were lost cumulatively, impacting children and families across the country.
This was despite the efforts from many school leaders and teachers to keep classrooms open and government guidance stating that teaching for pupils studying for exams and vulnerable children should be prioritised.
The Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, has today written to union leaders inviting them to discuss proposals on a voluntary basis in the first instance. In her letter she is clear that should a voluntary agreement not be reached the government is committed to using powers granted through the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act that was introduced earlier this year. Such a move would lead to a consultation and is expected to include a range of models for MSLs in education, for parents, teachers, and other stakeholders to provide views on.
Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said:
Last year’s school strikes were some of the most disruptive on record for children, and their parents. We cannot afford a repeat of that disruption – particularly as schools and teachers continue to work so hard to help children recover from the pandemic.
I am asking the teaching unions to engage with us and agree to put children and young people’s education first – and above and beyond any dispute.
Proposals to introduce MSLs in schools and colleges follows the announcement made by the Secretary of State to consult on MSLs in universities, to limit the impact of industrial action on students.
The introduction of MSLs will bring education in line with other key public services such as healthcare and transport. MSLs will provide a better balance between the right of workers to strike, and the importance of education.
In July, school teaching unions suspended their strikes when the government announced the largest pay award in 30 years for teachers, alongside meeting its manifesto commitment of increasing starting salaries to a minimum of £30,000.