Strike hits Suffolk schools the hardest

PUPILS in Suffolk will be among the worst hit by the national teachers' strike tomorrow, with more than 100 schools completely closing or stopping some lessons, it has emerged.

Anthony Bond

PUPILS in Suffolk will be among the worst hit by the national teachers' strike tomorrow, with more than 100 schools completely closing or stopping some lessons, it has emerged.

The EADT can reveal at least 48 schools are already planning to close their doors, with many more axing classes for certain year groups.

That will make the county one of the worst affected by the first National Union of Teachers walkout for 21 years.

Last night, the union's Suffolk county secretary Martin Goold, said one day of disruption would not be a disaster for pupils.

He said: “We are pleased with the response which shows there is a need to make the public aware of the difficulties that young teachers in particular are having and the need for us to force the government to think about how it treats its teachers.

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“I think that, yes, teachers cannot take industrial action without children being sent home, but it is only one day. There are all sorts of things that may mean a school is closing and I think that the occasional closure is not going to be disastrous for any pupils and we are protecting examinations.

“The long term effect of not attracting the right people into teaching is far more serious. What we are protesting about is that for the last five years teachers have been given a pay rise which is far less than real inflation and so the teachers are finding themselves yet again - as they were 30 or 40 years ago -falling behind other professions and becoming less attractive for young people to join the profession.”

The NUT wants the Government's 2.45% pay offer for teachers increased to at least above inflation. The official measure of inflation, the Consumer Prices Index, remained at 2.5% last month.

Last night, a Suffolk County Council spokesman said they were encouraging parents and carers to check whether their school was affected.

They said a total of 106 schools would either be closing or be disrupted by the action, although the figure could rise today.

He said: “Heads are assessing their information and making judgements on whether they should stay open or close.”

He also stressed it was “business as usual” with regards to school transport and meals at schools which were remaining open.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls has said he is “very disappointed” that teachers are to stage the walkout.

“I'm very disappointed and I think that parents across the country are disappointed,” he said.

“I'm on the side of parents who will be disappointed if their children's education is disrupted on Thursday because we have decided to accept an independent pay review. The majority of teachers do not want to strike,” he said.

The Government accepted independent recommendations for a three-year pay award with a 2.45% rise in September and 2.3% in the following two years.

Ivan Ould, chairman of the National Employers' Organisation for School Teachers, which represents children's services authorities and local education authorities in England and Wales, said: “Children so close to their exams will lose out on invaluable study time and parents will lose out as they are forced to take unnecessary holiday to look after them.

“The pay award was based on an independent body's recommendation and provides a deal that is both fair to teachers and affordable for the taxpayer.

Councils and schools are working together to ensure “the minimum possible disruption,” he said.

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