Colleges told to raid own coffers to get students to exams during rail strike

DfE says and FE providers are 'best placed to prioritise their spending to support their pupils and students' during biggest rail strike in 30 years

DfE says and FE providers are 'best placed to prioritise their spending to support their pupils and students' during biggest rail strike in 30 years

Schools, colleges and FE providers have been told to raid their own coffers to support exams students affected by this week’s train strike.

The RMT rail union confirmed yesterday that industrial action over pay, jobs and conditions will go ahead as planned today, on Thursday and on Saturday. There will also be a strike on the London Underground today.

The strikes coincide with GCSE and A-level exams, with several papers scheduled to be sat on Tuesday and Thursday.

Although the vast majority of students travel to school or college by car, bus or on foot, many use trains, especially in urban areas.

In an email to education leaders, the DfE said students and staff who travel by train “may be understandably concerned about the impact of the industrial action – particularly if they are due to take or oversee exams”.

The DfE said schools and FE providers should draw on “existing contingency arrangements to manage any disruption, including late arrival of staff or students”, and referred leaders to Joint Council for Qualifications guidance on exams.

This outlines existing “additional flexibility around invigilation numbers and published start times, which could be used if an invigilator is delayed by transport disruption”.

Use ‘core funding’ to help exams students, says DfE

For students who will “struggle to afford” alternative travel for exams, the DfE said schools and FE providers were “best placed to prioritise their spending to support their pupils and students and can consider making available funding for pupils and students who may require it”.

“For example, by using core funding or, for post-16 students, using the 16-19 Bursary Fund to support alternative travel for pupils and students.”

It comes as two teaching unions renewed warnings that they would ballot for industrial action if larger rises are not offered.

Chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke appeared to rule out inflation-related rises for public sector staff in an interview with the Today programme today.

The Consumer Prices Index rose by 7.8 per cent in the 12 months to April 2022, and there is some suggestion inflation could climb as high as 11 per cent.

But Clarke said it was “not a sustainable expectation that inflation can be matched in payoff”.

The Association of Colleges made a recommendation for all college staff to receive a 2.25 per cent pay rise in 2022/23. FE unions have rejected the offer and have threatened to strike unless their demands for a 10 per cent increase is met.

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