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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 12:51 GMT
Teachers' strike closes schools
teachers' march in London
It is estimated 3,000 NUT members turned out

Thousands of teachers marched through central London as part of a one-day strike over cost of living allowances.

The action by an estimated 3,000 members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) led to the closure of up to half the capital's 2,000 schools, disrupting lessons for some 450,000 pupils.

officers policing the march
Teachers want the same London allowance as the officers policing their march
Many other schools were forced to operate on a "partially open" basis.

The first London-wide strike for 30 years followed a ballot last month of 41,000 NUT members in response to a 3.5% increase from April in the London allowance - in line with teachers' general pay rise.

The union wants an increase of a third, which would take the inner London allowance to 4,000, claiming Metropolitan police officers get 6,000.

Click here for a map of the districts involved

Haringey teacher and senior NUT official Tony Brockman said teachers had turned out to march through London on a cold and windy day because the government's 3.5% pay rise was the last straw.

Basic pay from April
Just qualified: 17,628
After seven years: 25,746
Upper scale: 27,894
"The London weighting doesn't reflect the cost of living in London and this is exacerbating the teacher shortages which are much worse here than anywhere else," said Tony.

Tower Hamlets teacher Jasmin Ahmed said it was increasingly difficult for young teachers to stay in the capital.

"Wages aren't keeping up with inflation," Jasmin said.

"If police people can get something like 6,000, why can't we? Our job is part policing now in inner London anyway."

Jasmin Ahmed
Jasmin says young teachers cannot afford to live in London
Branch secretary of the NUT in Camden Kevin Courtney said: "The aim of the march is to give a clear message to Estelle Morris that she has severely underestimated the anger teachers feel about this issue."

So what about the thousands of pupils who will miss a day's lessons as a result?

"The disruption of this strike is nothing compared to the disruption caused to pupils' education by teacher shortages," said Mr Courtney.

"We apologise for this disruption, but we feel parents are supportive."

Tony Brockman
Tony says Estelle Morris must sit up and take notice
No lessons today

In Camden just eight of the borough's 41 primary schools were fully open and six of the borough's 10 secondary schools were closed.

The London Borough of Ealing closed 12 of its 13 secondary schools and 12 of its 67 primaries, with 27,212 pupils affected.

In Waltham Forest 75% of schools were shut for the day.

Redbridge Borough Council planned to close nine of its 51 primary and six of its 15 secondary schools, while 27 primaries and six secondaries are partially open.

London allowances from April
Inner: 3,105
Outer: 2,043
Fringe: 792
The Education Secretary Estelle Morris said she accepted there was an issue about living in London, but said the strike would undermine teachers' status.

"There is no need to strike. We do listen and we do talk. Striking does nothing for the good of teachers, parents and pupils," she said.

Ms Morris said the government had already taken action to improve teachers' pay and had succeeded in boosting recruitment in London.

Government action

The Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, Phil Willis, called on the government to address the problems faced by London's schools to avoid further disruption to pupils' education.

NUT advert
The union has placed notifications of the strike in newspapers
The shadow education secretary, Damian Green, said: "Whilst I sympathise with teachers over the conditions in which the government forces them to work, I do not support any industrial action that damages children's education."

The action by the NUT comes as the Secondary Heads Association and the National Association of Head Teachers arrange ballots for action over the government's performance-related pay scheme.

The two unions say the scheme is not being adequately funded.

The areas covered by the London weighting allowance:

map of affected areas
  1. Surrey
  2. Berkshire: Bracknell Forest, Slough, Windsor, Maidenhead
  3. Buckinghamshire: South Bucks, Chiltern
  4. Essex: Basildon, Brentwood, Epping Forest, Harlow and Thurrock
  5. Hertfordshire: Broxbourne, Dacorum, East Herts, Hertsmere, St Albans, Three Rivers, Watford, Welwyn Hatfield
  6. Kent: Dartford, Sevenoaks
  7. West Sussex: Crawley
  8. Inner and Outer London
Back to main text

The BBC's Ben Brown
"Affordable housing is a big problem for public sector workers"
Education Secretary Estelle Morris
"We have been listening"
The NUT's Bernard Regan
"The government is being very complacent"
South London teacher Nita D'Silva
"I can't make a difference if I can't live here"

Click here to go to London

The London strike

The wider picture

See also:

05 Mar 02 | UK Education
30 Jan 02 | UK Education
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