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Strike closed dozens of schools - and union warns there could be more strikes to come

PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 March 2014

Teachers' meeting outside the Forum in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Teachers' meeting outside the Forum in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Hundreds of pupils had a day off school yesterday when dozens of schools across our region fully or partially closed because of a strike by the NUT teachers’ union.

Teachers' meeting outside the Forum in Norwich. Photo: Bill SmithTeachers' meeting outside the Forum in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

About 200 flag waving and whistle blowing teachers, parents and supporters chanted “Hey ho, Michael Gove has got to go” at a rally outside The Forum in Norwich.

They heard speeches as NUT members took industrial action in their dispute with the government about pay, pensions and conditions.

At least 77 schools in Norfolk were fully or partially closed, although many ensured Year 11 students could study in the run-up to their GCSEs.

A total of 13 Suffolk schools closed, while 59 only opened partially.

Union says there could be more strikes to come

Schools face the prospect of further strikes after a teaching union warned it will stage more walkouts if progress is not made in a bitter dispute with the government.

The NUT said yesterday’s strike was a “clear demonstration” that teachers were tired of the pressure the government is putting them under.

The Department for Education, which condemned the walkout, said there was a low level of support for the strike, with around 12pc of schools in England forced to fully close. NUT general secretary Christine Blower warned more strikes could be called if there is no movement in talks between the government and unions.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “While the impact in many schools has been negligible, it has disrupted parents’ lives, held back children’s education and damaged the reputation of the profession.”

There were indications that relations between the NUT and fellow teaching union the NASUWT – which together have been running a joint campaign of industrial action – have become strained.

Both took part in regional strikes in the autumn, but the NASUWT did not join yesterday’s strike.

A leaked memo signed by NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates claims some members faced threats, insults and intimidation from members of the NUT.

Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said the dispute was a national one and children in Suffolk should not be dragged into it.

She said: “Many people will ask how teachers can justify going on strike over pay and workload concerns at the same time as wanting to improve educational attainment.

“On the relatively rare occasions that teachers go on strike, we support heads and encourage them to plan ahead and aim to keep schools open wherever possible. We know that many teachers won’t actually want to strike and will work with heads to keep their schools running.”

In a poll on our website, the more than 600 people who voted were almost evenly divided on the merits of the strike, with 53pc opposed and 46pc in favour.

The issue also provoked strong debate in the comments section of our website.

Harry Rabinowitz said: “Teaching is a highly stressful job bedevilled by constant government interference, many teachers do not live long after retirement if they get that far because they are completely burnt out! Those who are under the impression that it is a cushy option have never experienced it!”

Blister said: “Wish I had their very generous pension that is actually paid for by much lower paid people in the private sector. It is one of the many financial benefits for what is basically a part time job.”

Pipps said: “I strike because I am worried about the education system as a teacher and a mother.”

Andy Bygrave said: “Crazy strike greedy teachers. Yes they may have to work what I would regard as normal hours (which they find unnaceptable) but they get 13 weeks leave a year.”

Were teachers right to strike? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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