Strike set to close Suffolk schools

THOUSANDS of Suffolk schoolchildren are being forced to stay at home next week as the full impact of the impending teachers' strike begins to emerge.

Lizzie Parry

THOUSANDS of Suffolk schoolchildren are being forced to stay at home next week as the full impact of the impending teachers' strike begins to emerge.

Headteachers are opting to close their doors completely or cancel classes, while many high schools are only able to open their sixth forms.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is staging its first walkout for 21 years on Thursday April 24 over a pay dispute.

So far more than 50 schools in Suffolk have announced they will be closing or partially closing although staff members are not legally bound to tell headteachers that they are walking out until 48 hours before.

Graham White, an association secretary with the Suffolk branch of the NUT, has estimated around two-thirds of the 3,000 NUT members in Suffolk will be involved in the strike action.

Most Read

“The whole point of strike action is to make a statement to the Government, so from our point of view the more schools that close the better,” he said.

To reduce the impact on pupils, many high schools in Suffolk are making efforts to keep facilities open to pupils sitting exams this summer, and a spokesman from the NUT stressed that pupils taking practical exams on Thursday will not be affected.

Graham White, of Suffolk NUT, said it was “very sad” that pupils were affected but highlighted the long term goals of the action to secure better rates of pay.

“It will ensure that future generations of pupils will get a better standard of education and that in the future we can attract the very best people into the profession,” he said.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council has advised parents to stay in touch with individual schools as well as keeping an eye on local media to stay up-to-date with the current situation.

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.

NUT members say they have received pay increases below the rate of inflation for the last five years.

Martin Goold, secretary of the Suffolk NUT Branch, said an estimated 50% of newly qualified teachers left the profession within three years.

Mr Goold added: “We think it indicates a concern amongst the profession about the decreasing value of teachers and their work compared with other jobs.”

The Government has called on the NUT to reconsider.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the teachers' pay award was recommended by the independent School Teachers Review Body.

"It is disappointing that a small proportion of teachers are threatening to disrupt children's education in this way," she said.

She added: "The three-year pay deal means teacher's pay will continue to rise in real terms.

"It is right that teachers are properly rewarded. But everybody understands, including teachers, that we need to have a firm control of public sector pay to keep inflation low and interest rates down.”

n Regular updates on which schools are affected can be found on Suffolk County Council's website www.suffolk.gov.uk.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter