Page last updated at 19:36 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 20:36 UK

Schools shut in public pay unrest

Teachers on strike
Thousands of striking teachers have marched in England and Wales

Nearly a third of schools in England and Wales have been disrupted, and one in 10 closed completely during the biggest teachers' strike in 21 years.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) said thousands of members had heeded its strike for a 4.1% pay rise.

Meanwhile, thousands of civil servants also walked out, disrupting government departments and the coastguard service.

The public sector unions have not ruled out further strikes against the government's 2% pay target.

Up to 400,000 teachers, lecturers, civil and public servants walked out on Thursday in a one-day protest at what they said were below-inflation wage rises.

Schools, colleges, government departments and the coastguard service were all affected as members of the NUT and Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) stayed away.

At a rally in London, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said that giving public sector workers below-inflation pay rises "simply wasn't good enough" for a Labour government.

He said: We need a fundamental change of direction. If the government continues to use the public sector like a political football, I am convinced they will pay a devastating price at the general election."

20,133 - starting salary (England and Wales)
34,281 - most experienced teachers' salary (outside London)
+4,000 - additional pay for inner London teachers
39,525 - headteachers' starting salary
Nearly 100,000 - most experienced headteachers' salary

A Treasury spokesman said the government would continue with its policy of holding public-sector pay settlements at or near to a 2% increase.

He said Gordon Brown was determined to keep pay awards low, in the interest of controlling inflation.

The one-day teachers' strike, which was condemned by all the main political parties, affected up to 9,500 schools. Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the NUT, told the BBC that she could not rule out further pay strikes in the months ahead.

More than 2.5m pupils were estimated to have been affected by Thursday's strike - with more than a million forced to stay at home. Many pupils are studying for GCSE examinations which start next month.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the strike had been called by a "minority" of teachers, and said it was regrettable for both pupils and parents.

Schools lie empty as teachers take to the streets

Figures provided by the Department for Children, Schools and Families indicated that 67% of schools in England and Wales remained open on Thursday.

Twenty-one per cent of schools remained open but had some of their classes affected, and 12% were closed altogether.

As the day of action began, teachers formed picket lines outside schools. Many held banners aloft bearing slogans such as "Where's the money, Darling?" - calling on the chancellor to make more funds available for their pay award.

South West: 254 closed or partially closed
Liverpool: 187 closed, 213 partially closed
London: 708 closed, 769 partially closed
North East: At least 402 closed or partially closed
Wales: About 500 closed, 400 partially closed
West Midlands: 200 closed, 264 partially closed
Yorkshire: At least 600 closed or partially closed

In London and other cities across England and Wales, thousands of teachers and other public sector workers took part in marches and rallies.

The NUT has rejected the a three-year pay deal put forward by an independent pay review body. The deal is worth 2.45% this year, followed by increases of 2.3% in the following years.

Pay battle

Ministers say teachers are rewarded adequately, and that their pay has gone up by 19% in real terms since 1997.

During a visit to a school in Kent the schools secretary Ed Balls said: "I think parents across the country will be frustrated and angry about the strike and many teachers will have the same view - and I share their frustration."

This is not a selfish request for higher wages but a need to keep teachers' pay in line with other graduate professions
Jenny, London

Conservative schools spokesman Nick Gibb said it was "deeply regrettable" so many children would have their education disrupted by this strike, particularly those with important exams coming up.

Liberal Democrat school spokesman David Laws said that teachers should have a no-strike agreement.

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

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