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EDITIONS
Monday, 1 April, 2002, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Teachers refuse to cover for shortages
NUT conference
The conference vote was too close to call

Schools struggling with teacher shortages could be forced to send pupils home - as the biggest teachers' union has voted for a refusal to cover for vacancies.

The National Union of Teachers, meeting for its annual conference in Bournemouth, has voted by a large majority for an "escalating campaign of industrial action" in protest at the "continuing crisis" in staff shortages.

The Education Secretary Estelle Morris has already been challenged by the conference and is said to be "furious" about the vote for industrial action in support of a 35-hour week.

Delegates calling for the boycott of cover said that children's education was being damaged by teacher shortages, with too many lessons being taught by temporary or non-specialist staff.

And they told the conference that recruitment difficulties meant that staff were unable to find time to plan lessons.

Staffroom veto

The motion proposes that union members should "refuse to cover for absent colleagues beyond the first day of the unforeseen absence".

There would also be a veto on any government initiatives that could generate extra workload.

And it proposes a publicity campaign to win support among parents.

In the debate, there had been warnings by delegates that such unilateral action by a single union would be impossible to implement and could wreck the efforts with other unions to reduce workload.

But speaking after the debate, the union's general secretary, Doug McAvoy, said that any campaign to refuse cover for absences would not be initiated until negotiations with the government over workload had been completed.

The protest over teacher shortages would be "parked" until the workload campaign was resolved, he said.

See also:

31 Mar 02 | UK Education
31 Mar 02 | UK Education
24 Jan 02 | UK Education
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