Pupils back to remote learning as Fife schools shut for three strike days

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Remote learning will be re-introduced for pupils across Fife as schools close for three days this week because of strike action by non-teaching staff.

Fife Council will shut all schools on Tuesday (September 26) for three days, re-opening on Friday. It said it cannot open schools without the non-teaching staff, all members of UNISON, and doesn’t know how many will join the industrial action - but the vote in Fife backed the strike.

Weekend talks failed to produce a breakthrough, and although members of the Unite and GMB unions suspended their strikes while members were consulted, the closures will still go ahead, affecting families across the region. The action affects primary and secondary schools, nurseries, special schools, early learning and family nurture centres, additional support needs units, childcare services and pupil support services.

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Shelagh McLean, head of education and children’s services said: “This strike is part of wider action relating to a national dispute over pay for all council workers other than teachers, who are covered by a different pay deal. We appreciate how difficult it is for parents, carers and pupils when we have to close our schools, and I can only ask for their patience and understanding.

Schools face major disruption with strike action hitting next week (Pic: Nationalworld)Schools face major disruption with strike action hitting next week (Pic: Nationalworld)
Schools face major disruption with strike action hitting next week (Pic: Nationalworld)

“We can’t know in advance how many of our pupil support assistants, early years officers, admin and clerical staff, janitors, catering and cleaning staff will join the planned strike action. However, we do know that most union members voted in favour of action, so we expect a high level of participation.

“We can’t open our buildings to children and young people, or provide support across all classes and nurseries, without these staff. So, even though some may come to work, we’re unlikely to be able to run any educational facility safely.

“Therefore, we’ve made the difficult decision to close all Fife schools over the three days. I know this may be challenging or inconvenient for many families. Pupil welfare remains our top priority and we’re particularly conscious of the ongoing cost of living crisis. We will make a payment to parents for children and young people registered for free school meals.

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“Remote learning with teachers will be in place. Our children and young people also have access to a wide range of online learning resources and educational games. Of course, we’ll update parents immediately if the dispute is resolved and plans change.”

All schools, educational and childcare facilities will open as normal on Friday, September 29.

UNISON Scotland’s local government committee rejected a revised offer from COSLA last week, branding it “too little, too late.”

Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland head of local government, said: “We cannot agree to a pay offer that will result in further cuts to our members jobs and the services they provide. It has taken COSLA six months to send us a revised pay offer which, for the vast majority of staff is an increase of only 0.5% in-year. These are not well-paid staff, they are on less than the Scottish average wage and it is simply not acceptable.

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“Far from learning the lessons of last year’s dispute the situation has been worse this year, caused further delay local government workers’ pay during a cost-of-living crises and created uncertainty for parents. This is no way to conduct industrial relations.”

Mark Ferguson, who chairs UNISON Scotland’s local government committee, added: “The offer is still below the rate of inflation meaning that local government workers are, once again, being asked to take a real-terms pay cut which they can ill-afford during a cost of living crises.

Our members have been left waiting for an improved pay offer for months after their pay uplift was due, and right up until the eve of mass school closures, whilst COSLA and the Scottish Government have prevaricated over who will find the additional money needed to fund any improved offer and where they money will come from.”