Britain faces widespread disruption today as teachers join hundreds of thousands of public sector workers for the biggest day of strike action in more than a decade.
About 85 per cent of the 23,000 state schools in England and Wales will be fully or partly closed, affecting millions of children, with hundreds of thousands of teachers taking industrial action over pay.
Lecturers at dozens of universities, civil servants, train and bus drivers have also walked out.
Parents are taking days off or working from home to look after their children because many are unable to travel to offices because of transport strikes.
Teachers said they would form picket lines at thousands of schools and rallies were planned in cities including Birmingham, Gloucester, Cambridge and London.
Members of the National Education Union, whose ranks have been swelled by 40,000 new members in the last fortnight, are asking for an inflation-busting pay rise. They say higher salaries are needed to improve recruitment and retention problems across schools and ease pressure on existing teachers.
Teachers shared pictures of placards on social media, with slogans such as: “The less we earn, the less they learn”.
But the education secretary, Gillian Keegan, has said that schools were given an extra £2 billion in the autumn spending review and can use that to give teachers pay rises.
Keegan added that the strikes were unnecessary. “I am disappointed that it has come to this, that the unions have made this decision. It is not a last resort. We are still in discussions. Obviously there is a lot of strike action today but this strike did not need to go ahead,” she told Times Radio.
Teachers in England and Wales who are members of the National Education Union will begin the first of seven days of strikes today, with further strikes planned later this month and in March.
Rail workers, civil servants, nurses, ambulance workers and firefighters have also launched industrial action in disputes driven by pay, which has lagged behind soaring inflation.
Our full guide includes an interactive tool to see how and when industrial action will affect you.
Britain hit by biggest day of action in over a decade