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Teacher strikes: Three-quarters of schools could be forced to shut by next week's walk-out

Next week’s teachers’ strike could close three-quarters of schools in the English regions affected, according to a new survey of school leaders.

Members of the NUT and NASUWT unions in the Eastern, East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside regions are preparing to take to the picket line next Tuesday in their ongoing campaign of industrial action over teachers’ pay, pensions and working conditions.

But new research from The Key, an online support service for school leaders, has revealed for the first time the likely impact of the next phase of strike action. Out of more than 1,100 school leaders surveyed, 21 per cent said their school was "very likely" to be completely closed for the day, with a further 57 per cent admitting that full school closure was a possibility. Just 22 per cent of respondents insisted that closure was unlikely.

Heads reported a mixed picture in terms of how prepared schools were for the action, as 62 per cent of those surveyed admitted that their school was either partly or completely unprepared for next week’s strike. One in five (22 per cent) school leaders said they were considering allowing their non-striking staff to bring their own children to school with them for the day, while 13 per cent said their school was considering using teaching assistants to cover for striking teachers.

The results also suggested many school leaders were conflicted about the strikes: while 63 per cent opposed the action, the majority of these said they were supportive of the unions’ complaints against education secretary Michael Gove.

“Once again we see headteachers placed in an excruciatingly awkward position,” said Fergal Roche, The Key’s chief executive. “They want their staff to be motivated and well rewarded, but their number one priority is higher standards for the children and young people they serve – and that is bound to mean some tough decisions about pay.”

Stephan Cook, head of St Faith’s Primary School in Wandsworth in south-west London, said he had “no real concerns” about the impact of the strike - “so long as I can prepare in advance, and am adequately staffed with ... health and safety [issues] addressed.”

But Lisa Sharratt, head at Glebelands Primary School in Cambridgeshire, was less sympathetic to the strikers. “The disruption will not help the cause in our area and is likely to place another barrier between us and the people with whom we need to work closely,” she said.

With another strike in the North East, London, South East and South West planned for 17 October and a national walk-out to follow before Christmas, this is a scenario that is likely to be played out across the country in the coming weeks.

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