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Leader's death may boost strike

Numbers attending rallies over pay could rise out of respect for NUT general secretary

The National Union of Teachers expects greater numbers will attend strike rallies later this month in England and Wales out of respect for Steve Sinnott.

The teacher union's 56-year-old general secretary died suddenly at home on Saturday morning of a suspected heart attack only days after announcing the first national pay strike for 21 years.

Leaders of the the 255,000-member union, who held an emergency meeting, said the time for grieving was later. Christine Blower, acting general secretary, said: "I know he would have wanted the union to go ahead with all its campaigns because he believed in all of them with his heart as well as his head."

The union does not intend to picket school gates but has scheduled 43 rallies in England and Wales for its one-day strike on April 24.

"I think there will be some people who will be moved to turn out in memory of Steve," Ms Blower said. "Many will feel that Steve was so committed to this that they will want to express their solidarity. "We will send out statements to all the local rallies, saying that we are doing this in part because of the leadership of Steve."

Jerry Glazier, an NUT colleague of Mr Sinnott, said his long-time friend would not expect teachers to turn out in his memory, but in support of better pay for teachers.

"But the way the current financial situation is impacting on young teachers was of great concern to him," he said. "It reminded him of the difficulties he had when he was a young teacher with a young family, trying to make ends meet."

As well as up to 200,000 NUT members, 27,500 members of the University and Colleges Union and 100,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union are considering a walk-out on the same day, in what could be the biggest strike in England in more than a decade.

Other teacher unions and heads' and governors' associations have advised their members not to cover for striking NUT staff, creating the possibility that many primaries could be forced to send pupils home.

One of the biggest supply agencies in England and Wales told The TES it would not provide strike-breaking teachers to fill the gaps.

Select Education said that where it suspected it was being asked to fill vacancies created by the strike, it would decline. John Dunne, one of its directors, said: "We don't want to work against any union by putting in a teacher to cover for a striking teacher."

Ms Blower will lead the union into the strike. The NUT's executive council will meet next month to confirm details of an election for Mr Sinnott's successor.

Obituary, page 12.

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