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Starting this week, sixth form college staff will participate in three strikes in protest against government funding cuts.

National Education Union (NEU) members from 34 sixth form colleges will be taking strike action. The first strike took place on Wednesday, with action also scheduled for 27th February and 10th March. The action in February includes a rally in central London.

The action will affect schools and have implications on the education pupils are receiving. But how can a school minimise the effect a strike may have on its learners? And how can online learning be used to benefit pupils in the absence of classroom time?

Sixth form strike: why is it taking place?

The NEU is calling on the government to invest an extra £700 million into education, so to reduce job losses, class size increases and cuts to teaching time. The union has described the current £400 million in additional funding promised to 16 to 19 education as “grossly inadequate”.

A survey by the Sixth Form Colleges Association found that over three quarters of all colleges and schools with sixth forms believe that the amount of funding they receive in 2020 will be sufficient to provide support to disadvantaged students.

Mary Bousted, joint secretary of the NEU, said:

The Conservatives have neglected 16 to 19 education and sixth form colleges in particular. No wonder our members are angry and determined to secure a properly funded post-16 for both students and staff.

Gavin Williamson (Education Secretary) must take heed of this very real concern from a long-suffering sector and make the case to the chancellor and the prime minister that the budget on 11 March must include at the very least a £700 million injection of new money to close the gap with schools. Otherwise the crisis in 16 to 19 funding will continue.

How is it affecting sixth forms?

According to Morning Star, the strike will shut down about 40% of all sixth forms and 16-19 academies in England.

It means a high percentage of pupils are missing three days of education in the run up to crucial A-Level and other exams.

School strikes: are secondary schools being affected by striking?

Though this week’s action is limited to sixth form, schools should consider contingency plans for incidents of striking.

In 2014, thousands of schools were closed by a strike by the National Union of Teachers (NUT). Union leaders at the time had said teachers were “thoroughly tired of intolerable pressures from the government.”

NUT general secretary, Christine Blower, said: “Teachers love teaching but are crushed by the long hours and stifling accountability regime.”

In 2008, around 200,000 teachers were involved in the first national teaching strike for 21 years.

School strikes can also affect individual schools. This month, two schools in Newport are being affected by striking, with almost 100 staff absent to protest against feared job cuts.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) closed over half of secondary schools in Ireland on 4 February to make two-tier pay rates an election issue.

Why should online learning be used on strike days?

Instead of losing a day of education, utilising home-based education means your pupils can continue learning, despite the action of the teachers. By utilising online learning, the school can continue to operate regardless of strike action.

As well as pupil education not coming to a standstill, there are also benefits of home education that you would not receive in a classroom environment. 

Here are the benefits of home teaching:

Teacher to student ratio: An extremely important factor in educating a child effectively is the number of students for which a teacher is responsible. It has been proven that the smaller the class, the more effective the teaching is. Using online learning tools, like EDClass+, means pupils have access to one-to-one teaching support at the press of a button.

Educate to a child’s capability: Lessons and assignments can be tailored to the pupil’s individual needs. If the pupil requires further learning on a specific topic, the teacher can assign that specific subject to them.

Instant feedback: Through online education, feedback is instant. This is effective as it means pupils can instantly learn from their mistakes. Further, staff time is saved, as marking on assessments is completed automatically via the platform. Teachers have access to analytical tools meaning they can identify progress while away from the learner.

Online learning or home learning can also mean increased participation of parents in education. You can read 5 strategies to improve parental involvement in schools here.

EDLounge Ltd, which EDClass is a subsidiary of, has been inspected by Ofsted. You can read the Ofsted report here.

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