Teachers’ strike disrupts hundreds of schools in England and Wales
Hundreds of schools across England and Wales remained closed and classes disrupted, as teachers joined rallies and picket lines in a dispute over pay, pensions and conditions.
Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which represents more than 300,000 teachers in the UK orchestrated the strike.
The general secretary of NUT Christine Blower said: “The talks with the government have not progressed enough to avoid the strike.”
The union is concerned with various issues, including working hours: The Government’s Workload Diary 2013 survey revealed that some primary school teachers now work 60 hours a week and a few secondary school teachers have seen a six-hour increase in their working week.
Criticising Wednesday’s industrial action, a Department for Education (DfE) official said: “Despite our constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is taking action that will disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation to the profession.”
The NUT deputy general secretary said that striking was a last resort but warned that education secretary Michael Gove’s policies were “exhausting and demoralising” teachers, causing them to leave the profession.
Minister of state for schools David Laws said: “I am concerned about the number of hours teachers are working per week, but equally I am disappointed that one union has decided to take industrial action in the middle of the talks that include other unions – all of which have decided against joining the NUT in striking.”
Another issue raised was performance related pay (PRP), which will be introduced to schools next September. The initiative aims to peg teachers’ salaries to their pupils’ results.
Disapproving of PRP, the NUT has said: “This will undermine and disrupt effective school improvement, encouraging teachers to work for themselves rather than pooling their expertise.”
However, Mr Gove believes that PRP would make teaching “a more attractive career and a more rewarding job” and he has proposed to issue additional advice to support schools as they move towards preparing for appraisals and decisions on pay progression.
Another major concern for NUT is the pensions. The union stated that: “The government wants teachers to pay more towards their pension, work longer and receive a smaller pension when they retire.”
Mr Gove sent a letter to the union leaders on Tuesday underlining his commitment to addressing the unions’ concerns.