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Minister's plea as strikers plan rallies

Ministers have launched a last-ditch bid to avert the first national teachers' pay strike for 21 years.

They have so far avoided commenting on the one-day strike planned for Thursday by the National Union of Teachers, when up to 200,000 of its members could miss school.

But Jim Knight, schools minister, urges teachers in today's TES to rethink the industrial action. "We believe that all teachers should be teaching and talking - and not walking out next week," he writes.

"Of course teachers must be properly rewarded. But it is because teachers have mortgages too that I know they understand the need for a pay deal that helps deliver low inflation, low interest rates, and a stable economy."

The NUT says it expects high turnouts at rallies it is holding in at least 47 towns and cities, partly in respect for the union's former general secretary Steve Sinnott who died a fortnight ago.

Christine Blower, acting general secretary, said it had received no contact from the Government, but was still willing to negotiate. "As Steve Sinnott said before his tragic death, phones at the NUT will never be on silent," she said. "We stand ready to talk to Government."

The classroom and headteacher unions which are not striking, as well as the NUT, wrote this week to the School Teachers' Review Body, formally requesting an independent review of the current 2006 to 2008 pay deal. The Government had agreed that the pay deal might be reopened if inflation climbed above 3.25 per cent. The Retail Price Index has averaged 4.1 per cent over the past 12 months.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said it was crucial to maintain the gains that have been made to teachers' pay, but she felt strike action was unnecessary.

Jim Knight, page 29.

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