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Opinions from both sides of the barricades

I totally agree with Gerard Kelly's editorial about the latest union stance ("Unions, a prolonged sulk does not count as action", 9 November). In 1978, aged 25, I left the NUT after realising that this sort of action hurts only the children.

I was working in a large comprehensive at the time and each day the 2,000 pupils were sent off site for their lunch break as there were no staff to supervise them and no lunchtime clubs.

I was working with pupils with special educational needs and offered a lunchtime club for those too timid to brave the playground and others too prone to getting into trouble (both ends of the spectrum). They happily played table football and table tennis while I ate my sandwiches, but all that had to stop.

One day, when the school gates were unlocked after lunch, the 2,000 pupils decided not to go to class and sat on the school field en masse. We were all scared, pupils and staff. If it hadn't been for an exceptional deputy head, who split their ranks and got them to go in, God knows what might have happened. Have a go at Michaels Gove and Wilshaw - they certainly deserve it - but not via the children. I suggest using the pen and the ballot box.

Becky Durston, Retired headteacher, Essex.

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