SCHOOLCHILDREN in Fife returned to the online classroom this week as strike action led to the closure of all education facilities.

High schools, primary schools, special schools, nurseries, early learning and family nurture centres, additional support needs units, childcare services and the pupil support service were all affected by the industrial action on Tuesday, Wednesday and today (Thursday).

Shelagh McLean, head of Fife Council's education and children’s services, said they had made the "difficult decision" to close all Fife schools over the three days.

Dunfermline Press:

"I know this may be challenging or inconvenient for many families," she said. "Pupil welfare remains our top priority and we’re particularly conscious of the ongoing cost of living crisis.

"We will make a payment to parents for children and young people registered for free school meals.

READ MORE: Fife Council confirms school closures next week for strike action

“Remote learning with teachers will be in place. Our children and young people also have access to a wide range of online learning resources and educational games."

School support staff – janitors, cleaners, and support workers – in 24 council areas walked out for three days from Tuesday after a late bid by COSLA to resolve the dispute, with an improved pay offer on Friday, failed.

Although GMB Scotland and Unite unions suspended their strike action while they balloted their members, Unison Scotland rejected the pay offer, saying it still shortchanged "the majority" of council staff.

Its head of local government, Johanna Baxter, said: “As the largest union in local government across Scotland, Unison represents council and school workers in all roles and at every salary level.

“The union’s local government committee decided to reject the revised COSLA offer because, although there had been progress on pay for some employees, it shortchanged the majority.

“Unison is committed to winning a £15 per hour minimum rate, which wasn’t addressed in COSLA’s most recent proposal.

“No one takes the decision to strike lightly. But council workers in Scotland deserve far better.”

Dunfermline Press:

After suspending their action, GMB Scotland said it will now ballot members about the latest deal.

Senior organiser Keir Greenaway said: “It would be wrong to suggest this offer is not a clear improvement on those that came before it, especially for the lowest paid workers.

“GMB is a trade union led by its members and it is absolutely right they are asked to decide on what is a significantly better offer."

Unite said its local government committee had recommended ‘acceptance’ of the improved COSLA pay offer and is now balloting members.

Graham McNab, Unite’s lead negotiator for local government, said: “We believe the offer makes sufficient progress on low pay, and it is one that our wider membership should have its say on."

COSLA’s resources spokesperson, Councillor Katie Hagmann, said she was "extremely disappointed" with the rejection of the offer from Unison.

“We have met every ask of our trade union colleagues throughout these negotiations and this best and final offer was made on the basis that strikes would be suspended," she said.

“It is totally unacceptable that with such a significant offer on the table that our trade union colleagues are putting our communities and our young people through the turmoil of strikes."

Following the commencement of the strike action, Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Roz McCall raised concerns about the school closures.

“It is deeply worrying that after enduring years of disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic, children in Fife are yet again out of the classroom," she said.

“Mental health concerns are skyrocketing amongst children and that is why it is absolutely vital that our children are in the classroom, where they can be supported by their teachers.

“Teachers and indeed all educational and support staff care deeply about their pupils and the fact that they have been forced to take strike action is deeply concerning.

"The Scottish Government must offer Fife Council a fair funding deal and return to the negotiating table immediately.

“This strike will also have a real impact on the parents and carers of children in Fife.

"As a result of this industrial action, parents will either have to take time off work or pay for childcare. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, parents having to miss a shift at work will have a massive impact on family finances."