Teachers across England and Wales will begin a national strike today, leaving thousands of schools facing disruption and closure in fierce row over pay, pensions and teaching conditions.
The strike, led by the National Union of Teachers, will cause disruptions to some 10,000 schools during the one-day walkout.
The NUT has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with the Education Secretary Michael Gove for two years. They are particularly incensed by government plans to introduce performance-related pay by giving
headteachers the power to set their own staff’s salaries.
A proposed one-day national walkout in November by the two unions was called off in the wake of talks with the government and the NASUWT has decided not to take part in this latest round of strike action.
Speaking ahead of the walkout, NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said the strike was a. “last resort” and the union wanted Mr Gove to change his policies on school accountability and the working conditions teachers face.
“We have been trying to persuade Michael Gove to change his mind, he is unwilling,” he said.
“Michael Gove’s policies are exhausting and
demoralising teachers and that’s very bad and disruptive for education.
“Thousands of good people are leaving the profession, we are building up to a teacher shortage and our children deserve energetic and enthusiastic teachers not demoralised and exhausted ones.”
Mr Gove has written to seven union bosses ahead of the action, setting out the progress he believed had been made in an ongoing programme of talks between the DfE and these teaching unions.
In the letter, he said he wanted to underline his commitment to the talks process, adding that he was “encouraged by reports from the meetings so far”. But the NUT said the letter demonstrated how little progress had been made in the talks.
“Mr 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,” Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT said.
The walkout has been condemned by the Department for Education (DfE), who said the NUT is taking action that “will disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession”.
“Parents will struggle to understand why the NUT is pressing ahead with strikes over the government’s measures to let heads pay good teachers more,” it said.
“They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and talks have been taking place weekly.
“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.”