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Monday, 9 April, 2001, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
The action teachers are taking
Areas affected by the action
Areas affected by the action
1 Greater London (list of boroughs)
2 Doncaster
4 Leicester
6 Portsmouth
8 Manchester
10 Kent
12 Sandwell
14 Ipswich
16 Barnsley
18 Rochdale
20 Leeds
22 West Sussex
24 Clacton
3 Middlesbrough
5 Nottingham
7 Southampton
9 Reading
11 Hertfordshire
13 Hartlepool
15 Liverpool
17 Medway Towns
19 Birmingham
21 Swindon
23 Newcastle upon Tyne
25 Basingstoke
+ Ballots have also been held in a number of individual schools.

What teachers are doing

Teachers taking action over staff shortages are not going on strike, they are pursuing a "cover to contract" - in effect, working to rule.

The action involves refusing to cover beyond the first day of an absence known in advance - including permanent vacancies - or for more than three days in the case of a teacher being suddenly unavailable.

This relies on provisions in their contract - the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document.

But the document has an exception, which says teachers can be asked to cover where the employer has "exhausted all reasonable steps of providing a supply teacher to provide cover without success."

The unions say that in many schools these exceptional circumstances are becoming the norm and the exemption is "unacceptable".

Members of the NASUWT and the NUT will:

  • refuse to teach classes that have been amalgamated
  • refuse to teach pupils moved from other classes because their teachers are not available
  • refuse to undertake duties which normally go with a post that has not been filled
  • refuse to set or mark work for classes other than their own
  • refuse to supervise or to co-operate with non-teaching staff covering classes.
Where head teachers cannot manage to cover any classes affected by the action they face the prospect of having no option but to send pupils home.

The unions say they have agreed to operate the action in "a restrained and responsible way which minimises disruption".

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, says they are "damaging children's life chances".

Under the terms of their contract, teachers must work under the direction of their head teacher for 1,265 hours a year, for a minimum of 195 days.

But the clause which most annoys the unions says teachers must carry out "such other duties as are necessary for the performance of their professional responsibilities" - which they say leaves teachers vulnerable to excessive demands on their time.

London education authorities affected:
West - Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kensington/Chelsea, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lambeth, Merton, Richmond-upon-Thames, Sutton, Wandsworth, Westminster.
East - Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Bromley, City of London, Croydon, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Havering, Islington, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest.

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09 Mar 01 | Education
Joint demand over teachers' workload
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