Many people in St Helens on Merseyside remember the misery of the miners'
strike more than 20 years ago. But with only seven teaching staff and 10 union officials, the picket line at the Holy Spirit Catholic primary is a far cry from the angry scenes of the 1980s. The polite placard-waving of the staff masks a fury among teachers over the way the new teaching and learning responsibility payments have been introduced.
And Holy Spirit is not alone. Although the vast majority of schools in England and Wales have smoothly implemented their new pay structures, 132 schools voted for industrial action over the matter this year. And there are still disputes outstanding.
The NUT says 35 formal disputes are yet to be resolved and there have been threats of industrial action in small schools in Cornwall.
At Holy Spirit, the unions have been in negotiation with the school's management for nearly a year. Under the previous system, five staff received management allowances. Under the new scheme, introduced in December last year, only two members of staff will receive responsibility payments.
Teachers say this will amount to a pay cut of around pound;1,600 for three of them, who will still be expected to do the same amount of work. Staff have been on strike for three days in the past month, with three more one-day stoppages planned for next week.
John Rimmer, NASUWT member for the North West, said the local authority and school management had refused to meet under Acas, the independent arbitration service, to resolve the dispute.
"Holy Spirit is the only school in the area where there have been serious problems," he said. "There was not a proper consultation process with staff. We have attempted to hold resolution meetings, but the local authority is not prepared to consider any options."
A teacher at the school said: "We have no objection to responsibility payments, but all our posts with extra responsibilities warrant extra money."
Holy Spirit refused to comment, but St Helens council said the school was following national guidelines.