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Schools, Colleges and Universities: Minimum Service Levels

Volume 741: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2023

Today I am announcing the launch of a consultation on minimum service levels in schools, colleges and universities that would apply during strikes. Every day out of education is a missed opportunity, and absences have a significant impact on attendance, attainment, wellbeing and mental health.

This announcement follows a series of talks my Ministers and I have held with trade unions in the schools and further education sectors on a voluntary agreement. Unfortunately, we were not able to achieve significant progress during these discussions to ensure that protections for children and young people are in place for the next academic year. During the consultation period, I remain open to further conversations with the education unions and to discussing any proposals they may have to safeguard our children’s education in the event of strike action, providing a fair balance between the right to strike and children’s right to access education.

Subject to the consultation, I intend to use powers in the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 to make regulations to set minimum service levels in the event of strike action.

I know that many schools and colleges did their best to keep children and young people in face-to-face education during strikes. However, I believe there are benefits to having a formalised set of standards for children, young people and parents, supporting consistency across the country and clear expectations during strikes.

The consultation we are launching will provide us with information on the best solution for pupils, students and parents. However, I remain committed to ensuring any minimum service level balances the ability of individuals to strike with the rights of children to receive an education.

The consultation launches today, 28 November 2023, and will be open for nine weeks, until 30 January 2024.