Suffolk: Nearly 100 schools set to close due to teacher strike

Graham White, Suffolk NUT

Graham White, Suffolk NUT - Credit: Archant

Thousands of schoolchildren across Suffolk will have their education disrupted tomorrow as teachers walk out in a dispute over pay, conditions and pension arrangements.

Around 98 out of 336 across schools across the county are set to be closed or partially closed due to the industrial action with some classes being taken by teachers who are not members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) or the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).

Graham White, the secretary of the NUT in Suffolk, said the NUT and NASUWT represent more than 85% of teachers across the county.

He added: “It is with great regret that teachers feel that they have been left with no alternative but to take this action because the Government has not listened to our concerns or that of the teaching profession.

“Although I cannot be certain about exactly how many will be out, I would anticipate in excess of 5,000.

“Some schools will be closed completely for pupils but open for staff whilst others may be open for a single year group.

“Headteachers have a responsibility to ensure health, safety and welfare but also to provide education and not a child care service.”

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Mr White said the unions accept the action will cause disruption to parents and teachers.

“We hope that parents will understand our reasons for taking this action but it is short-term, temporary loss which we hope will result in significant long-term gains for the future of education,” he added.

Among the schools affected is Holbrook Academy and a letter was sent to parents by principal Dr Simon Letman.

It said: “The decision to close was based on health and safety considerations, and our ability to maintain the welfare and education of our students.

“Once again, I apologise for the serious inconvenience this may cause and regret the impact on your child’s education.”

The two unions are also considering the possibility of another one-day strike across the whole country before Christmas.

Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said Suffolk children should not be dragged into a national argument between the unions and the government.

“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,” she added.

“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.

“We would certainly urge negotiation and discussion rather than strike action and hope to see as many Suffolk schools as possible remain open.”

Parents should check the county council’s or their school’s websites for further details on closures.