Teachers' strike to shut up to half of state schools
Millions of children and parents were facing disruption today as up to half of state schools in England are forced to close because of a major teachers’ strike.
The National Union of Teachers and NASUWT will strike across the south and north of England today.
More than 10,000 schools could shut or send entire classes home after Britain’s two biggest teaching unions announced plans to walk out in protest over Coalition education reforms.
Members of the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT, which represent nine-in-10 teachers, are taking part in industrial action in an attempt to block changes to pay, pensions and workload.
The action will be concentrated in London and the South East, the South West, North East and Cumbria.
It represents the latest – and biggest – regional strike by the two unions as part of a long-running campaign. It follows a strike in the North West in July and further action across the Midlands earlier this month.
The protest will culminate in a national walk out before Christmas.
Last night, union leaders blamed the action on Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, insisted he had refused to take part in talks designed to meet teachers’ demands.
But the Department for Education insisted the action had no popular support and would “disrupt parents’ lives”, with large numbers of working mothers or fathers forced to take the day off or pay for childcare.
The NUT said that 10,118 schools out of around 22,000 in England had been given warning notices indicating that staff may strike. The action will affect 80 out of 152 local authorities.
It is not known how many schools will shut or partially close, although union leaders insisted the “overwhelming majority” of teachers in the affected areas would walk out.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “Teachers deeply regret the disruption caused by this strike action to parents and teachers.
“The Government’s refusal, however, to engage to resolve the dispute over pay, pensions, job cuts and workload means that they have no alternative other than to demonstrate the seriousness of their concerns.”
The main flashpoint is seen as the introduction of performance related pay in England and Wales. Under the system, pay rises based on length of service will be axed, with salary levels tied to the outcome of annual appraisals from 2014.
Unions have also been angered by changes to pensions that will see teachers work for longer and retire with a smaller retirement fund.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “The overwhelming majority of teachers in all four regions will be on strike today.
“No teacher has any wish to inconvenience parents or disrupt pupils’ education, but this action is not the failure or due to the unreasonableness of teachers. It is the failure and unreasonableness of the Secretary of State, who day-in-day-out is disrupting the education of children and young people through his attacks on the teaching profession.”
But a DfE spokeswoman insisted that the public supported its education reform programme.
"It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are striking over the Government's measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more,” she said. “In a recent poll, 61 per cent of respondents supported linking teachers' pay to performance and 70 per cent either opposed the strikes or believed that teachers should not be allowed to strike at all.
"All strikes will do is disrupt parents' lives, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession."