Page last updated at 03:29 GMT, Wednesday, 23 April 2008 04:29 UK

Strike to disrupt 7,800 schools

Taking the register
This is the first national strike by teachers for two decades

The teachers' strike is set to close or partially close about 7,800 schools in England and Wales.

Warnings to parents from 132 local authorities - three-quarters of the total - so far show that 32% of schools are expected to face disruption.

The one-day pay strike is being staged on Thursday by members of the National Union of Teachers.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls, opposing the walk-out, says "the majority of teachers do not want to strike".

Schools have been alerting parents to anticipated closures and loss of lessons - with more than 5,800 schools already set to be disrupted in a survey of 132 local authorities.

Widespread disruption

If this pattern is reflected across other authorities it would mean more than 7,800 schools being disrupted, out of a total of more than 24,000, higher than some earlier estimates.

TEACHERS' STRIKE
playground scene

Widespread disruption is likely in a number of both inner city and rural areas. Leeds, Cardiff, Suffolk and Cumbria all look likely to have many schools shut or partially closed.

And as head teachers get a clearer picture of staffing for the strike day, the proportion of schools set be disrupted is climbing upwards - approaching one in three schools.

The strike day is likely to cause childcare problems for parents - and an agency specialising in short-notice childcarers has reported a five-fold increase in inquiries.

"Many parents have only just finished the Easter holidays so it is hard for them to take more time off work," says a spokesman for Emergencychildcare.co.uk.

REGIONAL PICTURE
Anglesey - 51% closed
Blackpool - 55% closed or partially closed
Denbeighshire - 43% closed
Newcastle - 69% closed or partially closed
North Tyneside - 64% closed or partially closed
Nottingham - 37% closed

Some parents with more than one child face having one at home and the other in school - even within the same school, where only some classes are affected.

They are likely to get letters warning them not to keep both children at home. If one of the children is not affected by the strike, their absence will be treated as unauthorised.

Pay battle

One headteacher on why she will be closing her school

The strike sees the teachers' union pitched against the government's constraints on public sector pay - with the NUT and the government arguing over which measure of inflation should be used to determine pay increases.

"What we're saying to the government is, if you really do value teachers, then make sure that they're paid at least at the level of inflation - which we take to be the RPI, which is 4.1%," says the union's acting head, Christine Blower.

The pay deal which the union is attacking represents a 2.45% rise this year with a further rise of 2.3% in 2009 and 2010.

The government says it has increased teachers' pay by an average of 19% in real terms since 1997.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown told MPs: "I think it is very regrettable that the teachers are going on strike tomorrow, and the reason is that even the chairman of the Pay Review Body has said this is an independent award, independently adjudicated, and one that the teachers should be prepared to accept and I hope that, after reflection, the teachers will reconsider that they're going to take in future on this matter."

Shadow schools minister Nick Gibb agreed.

"Many children have important exams coming up soon and can't afford to miss crucial lessons, and many parents will have to miss work to look after them," he said.

Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws aid he did not support the action and called for a no-strike agreement between teachers and employers.

"Given the importance of education, we should be trying to move to a presumption that teaching unions will not take strike action," he said.

"The government should open talks with all unions to see how the independent pay review process could be strengthened to help both sides to agree such an approach."



SEE ALSO
Teachers defend strike disruption
22 Apr 08 |  Education
Schools disrupted by strike day
21 Apr 08 |  Education
Exam warning over school strike
20 Apr 08 |  Education
Q&A: NUT teachers' strike
21 Apr 08 |  Education

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