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Teachers split over strike

But exclusive TES survey shows majority support first national walkout in 21 years

The teaching profession is divided over plans to stage the first national strike over pay for 21 years, although a majority support it.

A TES poll of more than 7,000 teachers in England and Wales found six out of 10 believed the walkout on April 24 was a good idea. Support was strongest among members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which is holding the industrial action to press for a pay increase in line with inflation.

Among members of other teacher unions, which are not striking and which represent more than half the workforce, 52 per cent said the walkout was a good idea, while 48 per cent disagreed. Nearly half thought their schools would close.

Mary Compton, a teacher from Radnor, in Powys, Mid Wales, and a veteran of teacher strike action in the 1980s, said: "We are at last waking the sleeping giant, which is our union's ability to take strike action and defend state education."

The NUT has argued that the Government's plan to increase teachers' salaries by 2.45 per cent this year, and 2.3 per cent in the two following years, amounts to a pay cut in real terms. It is calling for a rise of at least 4.1 per cent.

Andrew Smith, a maths teacher at a Birmingham comprehensive, said he had supported the strike, although he was more concerned about pupil behaviour.

"Pay is the one thing that unites teachers on all levels though, so striking on that issue could draw attention to other things," he said.

More than a quarter of the NUT members polled said they would not strike, in defiance of the union. Other unions hope to gain disaffected NUT members, as they did during the 1970s and 1980s.

Voice, formerly the Professional Association of Teachers, was established in 1975 as a non-striking union. Philip Parkin, its general secretary, said: "The Government is not going to back down, so it seems a rather pointless exercise."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "The union's ballot shows that strike action was backed by less than a quarter of NUT members. We urge the NUT to reconsider."

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the NUT, said there were situations where "in all humanity" members would not be expected to strike, such as if a school trip had been planned.

Full reports, page 6

Leading article, page 28

Are teachers really paid badly?

TES magazine, page 14

THE TES POLL FINDINGS

Is the one-day strike on April 24 a good idea?

All teachers: YES 62%NO 38%

Non-NUT members: YES 52%NO 48%

NUT members: YES 73%NO 27%

The same proportion of NUT members said they intended to walk out on April 24

Will it cause your school to close?

All teachers: YES 47%NO 53%

Non-NUT members: YES 39%NO 61%

NUT members: YES 55%NO 45%

Source: TES online survey of 7,336 teachers, of whom 3,521 were NUT members.

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