Strikes: communicating with parents, staff and stakeholders

Find out who your headteacher needs to inform about industrial action and school closures, and understand what your role is. Use our questions to ask your headteacher about talking to striking and non-striking staff.

Last reviewed on 26 January 2023
School types: All · School phases: All
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  1. Your headteacher should notify you of potential strike action  
  2. Your headteacher can talk to staff about strikes
  3. Download our letter to parents

19 January 2023: The National Education Union (NEU) has voted to carry out strikes in school. Strike action will begin on 1 February 2023, and you can find the current planned strike dates here

The Department for Education (DfE) has also updated its guidance on handling strike action in schools

Take a look at our FAQs for industrial action for more guidance and support.

Your headteacher should notify you of potential strike action  

Your headteacher will get advance notice of potential strike action happening in your school:

  • 7 days before a ballot on strike action is held, and
  • 7 days before a strike begins

They should use this time to notify your school community and make plans. Early communication with the board will enable you to support your headteachers and leaders throughout the process. 

Your headteacher should inform:

  • Your governing board
  • Parents
  • Your local authority (LA)
  • Your academy trust and/or diocesan representative (where appropriate) 

Your headteacher might consult with your board on what to do about strikes 

This is set out in the Department for Education's advice on handling strike action in schools, although there's no formal definition of what 'consulting' has to look like.

In maintained schools: it's the headteacher's decision whether to close your school or not. They don't need permission from any of the groups listed above, but as a governing board, you may be able to provide support. 

In academies: it's the central trust's decision whether to close your school or not, but in reality this is often delegated to the headteacher. They may want support from the trust board and/or their local governing board (depending on whether you have them and what their responsibilities are, as set out in the scheme of delegation).

Make sure your headteacher communicates about school closures

As soon as they've made the decision to close or partially close the school, your headteacher should let people know. 

In both maintained schools and academies, they should notify the LA immediately. Your LA will update its website with a notice that you're closed, and will inform any support services that they run (such as buses or catering). 

It's your school's responsibility to tell parents that your school will be shut. 

For more guidance on closing the school, including questions to ask as a board, see our article on emergency school closures.

Your headteacher can talk to staff about strikes

It's hard to know how many staff members will strike

Reminder: who is the employer in my school? 

Where you see a reference to 'the employer', that means:

  • The local authority (LA) in community schools, voluntary controlled schools, community special schools, and maintained nursery schools
  • The governing board in voluntary aided and foundation schools
  • The academy trust in academies and free schools

Employers and headteachers can ask staff in advance if they plan to go on strike. However, staff aren't required to:

  • Tell the headteacher or employer if they're striking
  • Follow through on what they say (e.g. not strike if they say they won't)

Headteachers may want to ask staff so that they can get a better picture of your staffing capacity for strike days. This is set out on pages 4 and 5 of the DfE's guidance for handling strike action in schools.

If the employer or headteacher asks staff about their plans, they shouldn't:

  • Phrase it as a demand for information
  • Share the information with anyone who isn't involved in planning your school's response
  • Imply negative consequences for participating in strike action 

The headteacher/employer could hold a meeting to tell staff that they're welcome to share their plans, but that there's no pressure to.

Unions may notify your headteacher/employer of how many staff will be on strike, but not who they are.

Questions to ask your headteacher

Have you communicated with staff about the possibility of strike action?

As well as asking staff about their plans to strike, your headteacher should also share any plans for non-striking staff to cover colleagues' work as soon as possible.

Your headteacher must be careful to stay within the terms of staff members' contracts, and not to set an unreasonable workload. 

Advance warning about strikes will allow staff to plan their time, and communicate any concerns about what they’re being asked to do. 

Have you kept all staff informed of how the school will handle strike action?

Your headteacher should make sure everyone knows:

  • About the legal duty to try and keep the school open
  • Their rights
  • The fact that striking will result in a pay deduction for strike days
  • How the school will respond to strike action

If there's a picket outside your school, make sure your headteacher reminds staff members that:

  • It must be managed and operated peacefully, without abusive or threatening behaviour
  • A picket cannot obstruct the road
  • Only people employed at your school can picket outside it

Pickets can be a site of conflict between striking and non-striking staff members, as well as parents and other members of the school community. Your headteacher should remind staff members that your school won’t accept abusive behaviour from anyone.

Unions are required to appoint a picket supervisor, and to tell your school who this is. Your headteacher can liaise with the supervisor, and talk to them about any concerns that they have (for example, that the picket is obstructing the pavement or a fire exit). See page 18 of the DfE's strike guidance for more details.

What are the expectations for staff around behaviour? How have you communicated this?

It's important to set expectations for behaviour around a strike.

Your headteacher should show empathy that both striking and non-striking members are frustrated, but make it clear that they expect respectful behaviour from everyone throughout. 

Download our letter to parents

It's likely that your headteacher will be the person responsible for writing and sending letters to parents about your arrangements for a period of strike action.

However, if your school is closing, this may come from the governing board instead. Talk to your headteacher to decide who's responsible for what. 

Our download includes letters for giving parents notice of:

  • Potential disruption
  • No planned changes 
  • Partial disruption or closure
  • Full school closure

Pass them on to your headteacher if necessary, or take a look at them to see the type of letter your school might send out. 

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