School closures expected as teachers stage walk-out

Teaching union bosses have ctiricised Education Michale Gove in a dispute over pay, pensions and workload

Education Secretary Michael Gove
Education Secretary Michael Gove

Schools across the North East will close as teachers stage a walk-out in a dispute over pay, pensions and workload.

Thousands of pupils are likely to be affected as teachers across the region protest over Education Minister Michael Gove’s “incessant denigration” of the profession.

In Newcastle at least five schools have confirmed they will shut for the day of industrial action on October 17 but that number is set to soar as members from the NUT and the NASUWT – which represent 90% of all teachers in the region – pledge their support to colleagues.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Education last night said the strike would hinder children’s education and disrupt parents’ lives.

But Mike McDonald, the NUT regional secretary who represents 20,000 members, last night launched an attack on Mr Gove’s plans to cut teachers’ planning and preparation time.

He said: “We expect that the vast majority of NUT members will take strike action, meaning most schools in our region will close to pupils.

Teachers never take strike action lightly but they are extremely angry at the intransigence of Michael Gove, his incessant denigration of the profession and the damage he is causing to the education of students.

Union bosses claim teachers have seen a real-terms pay cut of 15% over the last three years while their monthly pension contributions have risen by up to £100 per month with the pension age increasing to 68.

It is also claimed that persistence in Government policy on curriculum and testing regimes is affecting the standard of teaching.

The regional action by the NUT and NASUWT is part of nationwide action in which 49 local authorities have been affected, with many schools closed for the day and others reducing their hours or cutting classes.

Simon Kennedy, regional organiser of the teaching union NASUWT, said: “We are being forced to take strike action because we are not able to sit down and meaningfully negotiate with the Secretary of State.”

He added: “We are prepared to engage – we’ve shown that in other parts of the UK. It’s still no too late, we could call off the strike action if Michael Gove would engage in a meaningful way.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are striking over the Government’s measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more. In a recent poll, 61% of respondents supported linking teachers’ pay to performance and 70% 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.”

A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: “We have asked schools to let us know by Friday if they will be closed, partially open, or open as usual on Thursday 17 October. We have advised schools to let their parents know as soon as possible and we will publish all the details on our website early next week.”

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