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Schools out as NUT strike over pay

Thousands of schools across England and Wales are facing disruptions and closures today because of the national one-day teachers’ strike over conditions, pay and pensions.

The strike, called by the largest teachers’ union the National Union of Teachers (NUT), means many schoolchildren unable to attend classes. 

Union leaders say the action, which is in relation to excessive workload and bureaucracy, performance related pay (in defence of a national pay scale system), and “unfair” pension changes, is a “last resort”. 

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “Teachers deeply regret the disruption caused by this strike action to parents and teachers. The government’s refusal, however, to engage to resolve the dispute means that we have no alternative other than to demonstrate the seriousness of our concerns.” 

PSE spoke to some demonstrators in Manchester who said “all we want is a fair deal in terms of pay, our working conditions and pensions”. 

In response to the strike action, the Department for Education (DfE) said that parents will struggle to understand why the NUT was pressing ahead with its strike. 

“They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and talks have been taking place weekly,” a spokesman said. “Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is taking action that will disrupt parents' lives, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession.” 

Commenting on the secretary of state for education’s letter to teaching unions on the ongoing programme of talks, Blower said: “Michael Gove’s letter shows how little he listens to the concerns of teachers and how little progress has been made in the talks process. His letter confirms why we are right to strike. 

“The secretary of state has attended none of the talks, nor have other ministers. The talks are with civil servants who are forbidden by Gove from straying into areas of policy. The talks are only allowed to discuss how Gove’s policies are implemented. Nevertheless, the NUT has participated fully in the talks because we will use any avenue to seek improvements for teachers and thereby to defend education.” 

She added that teachers’ levels of workload are intolerable. A government survey published last month, shows that primary school teachers work nearly 60 hours a week and secondary school teachers work nearly 56 hours a week. Additionally, two in five teachers are leaving the profession in their first five years of teaching. “This is bad for children and bad for education,” stated Blower. “The government’s performance related pay is unnecessary and will build unfairness and additional bureaucracy. Further, international evidence shows that performance related pay does not work for schools.” 

The NUT also stated that teachers do not believe that they can work to the age of 68 or even later for a full pension – and they don’t believe it is educationally desirable either. 

The union added that today’s strike action was covered by two ballots held in May 2011 and June 2012. The turnout for the ballot was 40% and 92% of these members voted in favour of strike action. The NUT has 326,930 members in England and Wales. 

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