Teachers' strike: Thousands of schools shut in England

The action is part of a continuing campaign of regional strikes involving members of the NUT and NASUWT

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Thousands of schools were closed across much of England as teachers went out on strike over pay, pensions and jobs.

Teachers in London, Cumbria, the South East, North East and South West have been taking part with nearly 3,500 schools shut or partially closed.

The action was part of a continuing campaign of regional strikes involving members of the NUT and NASUWT unions.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the strike was "inconvenient for parents" and "not good for pupils' education".

NUT general secretary Christine Blower, said the union regretted the disruption caused to pupils and parents but teachers felt they had "no other choice".

'Declared war'

Teachers' strike

Teachers marching

Major rallies have been taking place in Bristol, Durham and London, with smaller events in other areas, including Brighton, Carlisle and Plymouth.

Teachers are objecting to proposals by Education Secretary Michael Gove to bring in performance-related pay, increase their workloads and make changes to their pensions.

Twenty out of 33 London boroughs provided information to BBC London 94.9 about the number of schools affected.

Of those, about 445 schools were completely closed and 450 partially closed.

And in Tyne and Wear, at least 471 schools were affected by the industrial action.

Analysis

For the seventh time since Michael Gove took up post as education secretary, thousands of teachers in huge swathes of England are on strike.

Teachers' anger covers performance-related pay, being told they will have to work until they are 67, cuts and reforms.

But, the talk on the picket lines is also about the education secretary himself. When I asked one teacher what today's action was all about, she replied in one word: "Gove".

Both she and her union representatives feel he has "denigrated the profession" - attacking them unfairly in words and deeds.

Mr Gove himself insists he is simply in a hurry to reform schools and raise standards and accuses teachers of being backward looking and thwarting his ambitions.

But he is also fighting his own ideological battle - a cold war against the unions he describes as "enemies of promise".

Head teacher Roberta Kirby, from Fernhurst Junior School, in Portsmouth, said the government had "declared war" on teachers.

More than 200 schools in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were affected by the action.

She said: "If we cannot offer good wages and a pension that staff pay into that reflects the work they do, then we are not going to be able to attract the best graduates."

'Dedicated workers'

Responding to the impact of the strike, some parents said they had found it difficult to find alternative childcare.

The BBC's Sarah Ransome said: "People in Plymouth have been telling me that finding alternative childcare because of the strike has been 'quite a headache'."

A similar walkout by teachers took place in the east of England, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber region on 1 October.

Ms Blower said: "Mr Gove has done nothing to address the crisis of low morale in the teaching profession which threatens the continued provision of high quality education."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the "overwhelming majority of teachers" were on strike.

She said: "Teachers are committed and dedicated public service workers. They do not take strike action lightly.

"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."

'Very disappointing'

Plans for a national one-day walkout before Christmas have also been announced by the two unions.

Speaking to BBC Sussex, Mr Cameron said responsibility for the strike "lies with the teaching unions".

The NASUWT's Chris Keates said teachers regret striking but the action was "lawfully justified"

"I think it is very disappointing they have decided to go on strike," he said.

"And when we look at the things they are striking over, pensions and pay, they are things that have been decided independently by well-led reviews.

"I was at my children's school today in London. One class was not there but the rest of the school was operating.

"So, every praise to those teachers who have gone ahead and kept our schools open for our kids."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education (DfE) said 27% of the schools in the affected regions were closed. However, there was no figure available for how many were partially closed.

She said: "The NUT and NASUWT have tried to create as much disruption for pupils and parents today as possible.

"In spite of this, thanks to many hardworking teachers and heads, only around a quarter of schools in the targeted regions were closed today."

Schools minister David Laws says striking teachers are "disrupting the education of young people"

Area Number of schools shut or partially closed

Figures based on data supplied by local authorities and schools

Bath

35

Berkshire

100

Bristol

49

Buckinghamshire

122

Cornwall

107

Cumbria

75

Devon

110

Dorset

51

Gloucestershire

148

Hampshire

217

Isle of Wight

26

Kent

167

London

895

Oxfordshire

150

Somerset

86

Sussex

215

Surrey

121

Teesside

106

Tyne and Wear

471

Wiltshire

101

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