he education secretary has accused the biggest teaching union in the UK of being “focused on strikes” in a letter to parents.
She added that she has written again to union leaders inviting them for talks – but she refused to budge on her demand that they call off the strikes before negotiating.
Thousands of teachers are set to walk out on Wednesday and Thursday this week in a dispute over pay.
London is expected to be the hardest hit region in the country by the strikes, after more than three quarters of a million children were disrupted on two previous strike days by members of the National Education Union.
In an open letter to parents Ms Keegan said: “This industrial action will mean more disruption to children’s education and to your lives too – whether that’s work, arranging childcare, or changing other plans.”
She added: “I am extremely disappointed that many young people will once again miss invaluable time learning with their teachers and friends, particularly after their education was significantly disrupted during the pandemic.
“It is made worse by the fact that this strike action is completely unnecessary. As I said to the NEU three weeks ago, I want to get around the table and engage in serious talks on teachers’ pay and other issues to resolve disputes.
“My only condition was that strike action is paused so those discussions can take place in good faith and without disruption.”
She said the same offer was made to unions representing nurses, ambulance workers and physiotherapists, and those unions accepted it, paused strikes and are now negotiating in private.
“The NEU instead seems focused on strikes and all the needless disruption that brings…The single best thing the NEU could do for both its members and for children and young people would be to sit down and talk about pay.”
“I will continue doing everything I can to end the disruption your family is facing as quickly as possible, particularly because I know exams for older pupils are coming up fast.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU has told members: “The government is trying to portray [us] as unwilling to negotiate, but nothing can be further from the truth. It’s not us that’s refusing to negotiate, it’s the government.”
The government set up separate meetings with the other three main education unions this week but did not arrange to meet with the NEU because of the precondition that it should call off strikes.