HAMPSHIRE schools have been asked to prioritise opening for children of critical workers and vulnerable children during teacher strikes.

Advice issued to schools by the Department for Education (DfE) sets out guidance for how to manage the upcoming Nation Education Union (NEU) strikes over pay.

The NEU announced its national strikes are scheduled for February 1, March 15 and 16.

Read more: Hampshire headteachers may not know impact of strike action in advance

It has also planned several regional dates, with teachers in the south-east striking on March 2, meaning schools in Hampshire will be impacted by four days of strike action.

The NEU is the UK’s largest education union and has said the strike will affect 23,400 schools in England and Wales.

The DfE said it expects headteachers to “take all reasonable steps to keep the school open for as many pupils as possible”.

Advice issued by the DfE states: “Schools may choose to bring together groups and classes with teachers and support staff working together, as long as pupils’ health and safety is ensured.”

It adds: “While employees are not required to tell their employers whether they intend to take strike action, employers are able to ask staff in advance if they intend to strike to enable them to plan how to manage the strike. Headteachers may ask other teachers to cover the classes of those taking industrial action.”

If a school needs to restrict attendance, the DfE said it should consider, where possible, providing remote education.

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However, it said there is no legal requirement to teach the curriculum on strike days.

If the number of staff on strike means a school needs to prioritise places, it asks them to apply the principles set out in an 'emergency plan', which gives priority to vulnerable children and young people and children of critical workers.

Schools should also consider prioritising pupils due to take public examinations and other formal assessments.

It asks headteachers to inform parents of the impact, set out the groups being prioritised for face-to-face provision, and invite parents to tell them if they meet one of the critical worker categories.

Critical workers listed in the emergency plan include doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, and teachers.

A full list can be found here.

A pupil who is asked not to attend school on strike day will not be marked as absent. However, a pupil who is required to attend school on a strike day but does not come in will be recorded as absent.

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: “The Department for Education has provided guidance to the county’s schools on the implications of the potential industrial action.

"This includes guidance relating to vulnerable children and children of critical workers. Guidance will be issued to parents by individual schools, based on their own arrangements for strike days.”

A statement issued by Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, said: "We have continually raised our concerns with successive education secretaries about teacher and support staff pay and its funding in schools and colleges, but instead of seeking to resolve the issue they have sat on their hands. It is disappointing that the Government prefers to talk about yet more draconian anti-strike legislation, rather than work with us to address the causes of strike action.

"This is not about a pay rise but correcting historic real-terms pay cuts. Teachers have lost 23 per cent in real-terms since 2010, and support staff 27 per cent over the same period. The average five per cent pay rise for teachers this year is some seven per cent behind inflation. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, that is an unsustainable situation."