North East teachers vote for summer walkout which could disrupt exams

Schools across the region will close after teachers voted to stage a summer walkout

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire A teachers demonstration in Newcastle in support of the National Union of Teachers (NUT)
A teachers demonstration in Newcastle in support of the National Union of Teachers (NUT)

Schools across the region will close after teachers voted to stage a summer walkout which could disrupt students sitting their GCSE and A-level exams.

In a long-running bitter dispute over pay, pensions and working conditions, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) vowed to step up their campaign of industrial action at their annual conference in Brighton.

Delegates backed a priority motion which calls on the union to co-ordinate national strike action in the week beginning Monday, June 23, if “significant” progress is not made in resolving the long-running dispute.

The NUT has said it would not rule out more than one day of strikes and the resolution also left the door open for further action in the autumn.

The move, which has been condemned by the Department for Education (DfE), will leave thousands of schoolchildren across the North East facing the prospect of school closures and disruption to lessons.

After the conference, delegates stood for several minutes cheering and chanting “Gove must go”.

The vote comes the day after another teaching union, the NASUWT, agreed to continue its campaign of industrial action, warning it is willing to call its members out on strike if necessary.

Anne Lemon, of the NUT’s executive, told delegates that the resolution did not exclude the NUT from taking strike action with other trade unions.

Exam timetables show at least a dozen GCSE and A-level papers are due to be sat by students on the first two days of the week proposed in the NUT’s strike action, with one advanced maths extension paper scheduled for the Wednesday of that week.

However, NUT leaders insisted that they were not seeking to impact on the exams.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “Strike action will not disrupt exams.

“If necessary, exemptions can be given for staff who are needed to supervise an exam, but the NUT is looking to take action at the end of the main exam season.”

The priority motion does not restrict a walkout to one day only, with the union’s deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney saying it has been written to leave “flexibility”.

It also paves the way for further strikes in the autumn, calling on the union to agree to develop a programme of action in that term and beyond if there is insufficient progress in the talks.

About one in eight schools in England were forced to fully close when the NUT staged a one-day walkout last month, according to government estimates.

A DfE spokesman said: “Ministers have met frequently with the NUT and other unions, and will continue to do so. Further strike action will only disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession. We are giving teachers more freedoms than ever and cutting unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy.”

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