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Teachers' strike: Over half of schools forced to cancel classes, NUT claims

Over half of schools were fully or partly closed by today’s strike, the NUT has claimed.

Official figures from the Department for Education revealed that 21 per cent of schools were completely shut as a result of the national action by the NUT and other public sector unions, including Unison, the GMB and Unite, which represent support staff in schools. The DfE did not say how many schools had partly closed for the day.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said that "over 50 per cent of schools have been affected by the action through either complete closure or part closure". However, Unison put the figure affected considerably lower, saying that 4,000 schools were closed, with just 2,000 others partially shut. 

A DfE spokesman said that the proportion of schools closed was a “huge drop” from the 60 per cent that were shut by the pensions strike of November 2011. On that occasion, however, other unions, including the NASUWT, ATL, NAHT, UCU and Welsh teachers’ union UCAC also took part.

Today’s action by the NUT was the latest phase of its industrial dispute over pay, pensions and working conditions, while the public sector unions took strike action after rejecting a 1 per cent pay offer.

Marches took place around the country, with trade unionists in London gathering in Trafalgar Square for an open-air rally.

While marchers wearing the NUT’s trademark green “stand up for education” T-shirts were surrounded by banners and flags from other unions, the teachers – not averse to getting creative with marker pens – made their own placards to compliment the thousands of “Gove out!” banners handed out by the Socialist Worker.

“We’re going on a Gove hunt,” one placard said. “Time for special measures: axe Gove, not our pensions,” adorned another. One of the tallest signs on show simply featured a picture of the education secretary, along with the word, “Bully”.

Mr Gove, however, was critical of the unions’ actions, claiming that the NUT's strike mandate was two years old and did not have the backing of the majority of the union's members. He said the walkout was imposing "significant costs on families who have to pay out for expensive childcare or give up a day's work".

The education secretary also backed the idea of re-examining balloting laws, saying it was important that public services were protected and that any strike "reflects the interests of those in whose name it is taken".

The unions also warned that more strikes could take place in the coming months.

Mark Serwotka, the firebrand general secretary of the PCS union, told the Trafalgar Square rally that it was vital that the unions planned for “more and more” strikes so the campaign’s momentum did not “fizzle out”.  

“There is no mood to surrender, but there is a mood to continue the fight,” said Matt Wrack, leader of the Fire Brigades Union.

The next stage of the action, however, remains unclear. The NUT has promised to consult its members at the start of next term, before making a final decision.

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