Teaching strikes and the impact on your education marketing

Teaching strikes and the impact on your education marketing

300,000 teaching staff in England and Wales are set to strike. Here's what to do - and why open rates could be 2-3% higher on strike days than usual.

300,000 teaching staff in England and Wales are set to strike. Here's what to do - and why open rates could be 2-3% higher on strike days than usual.

Kat Thompson
Kat Thompson
Published: 18th January 2023

Even if you’re the first to admit you don’t catch up with Tes or Schools Week as often as you’d like, you’ll have no doubt heard the biggest piece of education news this week that’s taken over the major mainstream news sources: the upcoming National Education Union (NEU) teacher strikes.

What’s happened?

There have been rumblings for a short while about potential strike action, which have come into fruition after NEU, the UK’s largest teaching union, announced their intention to strike on 16th January. Almost 90% of teachers in England and Wales who responded to their ballot voted in favour of striking. According to Kevin Courtney, joint NEU general secretary, “The England teacher ballot result alone is the biggest ballot result of any union in recent times”.

The industrial action will mark the first nationwide teachers’ strike in 15 years, after similar ballots by fellow teaching unions failed to secure enough support.

Who exactly is striking?

300,000 teachers across England Wales will take part in strike action, unless the NEU and Government come to a last-minute deal regarding pay, through a combination of national and regional walkouts. Strike action will begin with a mass walkout on Wednesday 1st February, when more than 23,000 schools are expected to be affected.

The NEU represents teaching staff including teachers, lecturers, support staff, teaching assistants, and supply and agency teachers. Their coverage spans the industry, including maintained schools, academies, free schools, independent schools, sixth forms, and FE colleges; as well as education support services, alternative education provision settings, and early years settings.

Any school leaders across the UK represented by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) will not take part in strike action, after their ballot failed to reach the required legal threshold (only 42% of union members turned out to vote, below the legal threshold of 50%).

And Scotland?

Strike action in Scotland took place on Tuesday 10th and Wednesday 11th January for EIS, NASUWT, and AHDS members taking action. Almost all primary and secondary schools closed as a result of national and local strikes. A third day of strikes will take place between Monday 16th January and Monday 6th February (dependent on Council).

An additional 22 days are planned between Monday 13th March and Friday 21st April.

Any more?

Also joining the strike action are 70,000 staff members at 150 universities. Some of these are members of the NEU, but unions UCU, ASLEF, PCS, and RMT are also getting involved. They’ll join the mass walkout on Wednesday 1st February, to coincide with Trades Union Congress’ ‘protect the right to strike day’, and show support against the government’s plans to introduce strict anti-strike measures through parliament. A further 17 days of strike action will take place over February and March.

Why are schools striking?

In England and Wales, Teachers are striking over a "toxic mix of low pay and excessive workload", according to the NEU.

Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU, stated, "This is not about a pay rise but correcting historic real-terms pay cuts. Teachers have lost 23% in real-terms since 2010, and support staff 27% over the same period. The average 5% pay rise for teachers this year is some 7% behind inflation. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, that is an unsustainable situation."

The NEU is instead arguing for a pay rise of 12%.

In Scotland, unions rejected a pay offer which would grant most teachers a sub-inflationary 5% pay rise, and are instead arguing for a 10% uplift, which was stated as ‘unaffordable’ by the Scottish Government.

When will the strikes take place?

NEU strike action will take place across the below dates:

  • Wednesday 1st February (England and Wales).
  • Tuesday 14th February (Wales).
  • Tuesday 28th February (Northern, North West, and Humber regions).
  • Wednesday 1st March (East Midlands, Western, and Eastern regions).
  • Thursday 2nd March (London, South East, and South West regions).
  • Wednesday 15th March (England and Wales).
  • Thursday 16th March (England and Wales).

This means an individual school will only be affected on a maximum of four days out of the above seven.

Will they definitely go ahead?

In short, no. Kevin Courtney stated, “We really don’t want to have any strikes; we want the government to listen and sit down and talk”. A full-scale walkout can still be avoided if an improved pay deal for teachers can be agreed.

Will schools close on strike days?

In England, the decision to close lies with the school’s Head Teacher. At academies, the MAT makes the decision, although usually they usually let each school’s Head Teacher decide.

Schools with a high number of NEU members may be forced to close (or move lessons online – but not taught by any striking staff members) due to safety requirements. Schools with fewer NEU members may be able to remain fully open, or partially open with priorities to teach students taking exams this year, vulnerable students, or the children of keyworkers.

What does all of this mean for my education marketing campaigns?

In terms of sending any emails, it’s actually very little.

Teachers may not be physically in school during strike days, but this isn’t a decision any of them will have taken lightly. They’re fully aware of the impact striking will have on their students, as well as their own workloads, and have been left with no other option.

Teachers who strike will not be taking part in any sort of teaching, including remote learning, but it’s likely they’ll still be somewhat in ‘work mode’ – even if just in the evening to prepare for their return to the classroom the following day. It’s likely most will still be checking their school emails at least once on each strike day.

In 2022, our education statistics showed that open rates were only 0.5% higher on average during term-time than school holidays. It’s almost a given teachers will be more in ‘work mode’ during strike action days then during their week off.

Open rates during strike days are likely to be closer to those we saw during the COVID school closures – when open rates actually increased by around 2-3%.

Bear in mind this increase also happened when teachers were flat out with remote learning, and acting as stand-in IT support for students struggling to access the technology – and wellbeing support for those struggling with the difficult situation.

Despite their busy schedules, they regularly checked their emails for support throughout the day from businesses like you, who they knew they could rely on during tough times.

Amongst all the stress of each strike day, teachers may be checking their inbox more often for support. And that’s what you need to provide.

Strike days certainly shouldn’t have you immediately rescheduling your marketing campaigns in a panic. But you definitely need to pay careful attention to the content, and particularly tone, of your emails.

We’re only a few weeks into the new year, yet this strike period is likely going to be one of the most stressful times for schools this year. All school staff will need additional support right now; both those feeling guilty for walking out of their schools despite the need for essential action, and the non-NEU members who may feel pressured to pick up the workload. Everyone will be pulling out all the stops to make sure learning goes uninterrupted during this period, and working out how to make the most of classroom time during non-strike days.

So what should I do?

Ultimately – be sensitive. One of the strike days perhaps isn’t the best time to try out some new thought-provoking yet daring marketing language. And putting pressure on teachers with limited-time deals or heavy sales tactics won’t go down well, either. They’ll have enough on their minds, and don’t need the extra stress.

What they do need is for education business to carefully handle the situation, and show - not outright tell them - you’re there for them when they need it. Don’t clog up their inbox by simply telling them you're there to help. But a light email offering a free bundle of resources, free trial of your revision platform, or extended higher discount on your textbook for the summer term will be an enormous help, and hugely appreciated by stressed staff.

What next?

Firstly, don’t panic. We’re here to reassure you when it comes to your education marketing campaigns, and help advise you on the best dates and messaging for your audience.

Call us on 01684 297374, or email info@sprint-education.co.uk, to learn more about how the teacher strikes will affect your business, and what you can do to help.

Secondly, get up-to-the-minute access to all of the goings-on in the education industry through Campus's education calendar? All of the strike days for England, Wales, Scotland, and universities are already in our agile calendar, which Campus users get 24/7 access to. Stay on top of important dates in the education industry, and use them to help ensure your education marketing emails land on the right day, at the right time. Book a free demo of Campus, and explore the Education Intelligence module and all of Campus's other time-saving, sales-boosting features for yourself.

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