Secondary schools across Scotland will be closed on Wednesday as teachers take part in a second day of strike action in a pay dispute.
It comes after last-ditch talks between the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) and the Scottish Government failed to find a solution.
Unions have demanded a 10% pay increase but the Scottish Government has offered 5%, including rises of up to 6.85% for the lowest-paid staff.
The latest day of action comes after SSTA and NASUWT members took two days of action in December and EIS members walked out on November 24.
Speaking on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Tuesday, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “We’ll continue discussions with the unions.
“I think the challenge that we have is we remain some distance apart on what the Scottish Government and local government can afford and can put on the table from the union demand, which is, of course, a 10% increase in pay.
“If that had been accepted, if the 5% had been accepted, you would’ve actually seen teachers have a 21.8% cumulative rise since 2018.”
Striking teachers gathered outside Cosla’s headquarters in Edinburgh on Tuesday afternoon where the EIS general secretary accused the local authority umbrella group and the Scottish Government of “Tory tactics” in trying to weaken the strike action.
Andrea Bradley told members of the union she was confident of victory in the dispute, but said employers were “dampening aspirations”.
She said: “The employers’ body knows, if teachers are paid more fairly for the work that they do, that will raise the aspirations of other workers too.
“Cosla and the Scottish Government, they don’t want that. They want to tie one set of negotiation arrangements to another, doing all that they can to dampen aspirations.
“Overall we have lost 20-25% of the value of our pay since 2008. That’s unfair and that’s unacceptable.”
Nicola Sturgeon also spoke to journalists about the strike on Tuesday.
The First Minister said: “I deeply regret that we have industrial action in our schools.
“I don’t think that’s in the interest of young people at all.
“That said, I understand the strength of feeling of teachers and we highly value the teaching profession.
“I can’t create additional funding that we don’t have and I’ve tried to be really honest with unions across the public sector.
“We’re trying to be as fair as possible while maximising pay increases.”