1,500 Schools to Shut as Teachers Strike over Pay

By Miles, Tim | The Evening Standard (London, England), November 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

1,500 Schools to Shut as Teachers Strike over Pay


Miles, Tim, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: TIM MILES

STRIKE action by teachers is expected to hit two-thirds of London's schools tomorrow.

Councils predict as many as 1,500 of the capital's 2,200 primary and secondary schools will be forced to tell pupils to stay home as thousands of teachers walk out over pay. In some boroughs, almost all schools will be disrupted by the one-day strike.

By today, nearly 600 schools said they would be shut and education chiefs contacted by the Evening Standard said they expected hundreds more to announce they were closing later today.

The biggest London-wide strike over teachers' pay for 30 years marks a significant escalation in militancy.

It also creates a new flashpoint for ministers facing a mounting crisis over public-sector pay, fuelled by the firefighters' strike.

The biggest teaching union, the National Union of Teachers, held a one-day strike in the capital seven months ago, demanding a 33 per cent increase in the pound sterling3,000 London allowance. Now they are demanding a 100 per cent increase to take the allowance to pound sterling6,000.

They are being joined tomorrow by the second biggest union, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

In March's NUT strike, half the capital's schools were affected.

Embarrassingly, the man the Government chose to rejuvenate the capital's schools, Professor Tim Brighouse, has backed the strikers' demands.

While declining to comment on the action, the London Schools Commissioner said teachers deserved cost-of-living allowances at least as high as Metropolitan Police officers - who get pound sterling6,000 and free travel on public transport.

"Pay and conditions is one of the key issues in recruiting and retaining staff in London," Professor Brighouse said. "I do back the idea that teachers should get at least as much as the police.

"We have to tackle this issue because teachers and other public-sector workers are creating the capital's future."

The third main teaching union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, will not be joining tomorrow's industrial action. But the impact will be heightened because public-sector union Unison has chosen tomorrow for the latest of its one-day strikes over local pay.

That means even where teachers decide to work as normal, heads may be forced to close a school in the interests of safety because of the absence of key staff such as caretakers.

The Standard surveyed London's 32 education authorities and, as of this morning, twothirds of schools were expected to be closed in Wandsworth, Lewisham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Newham.

In Hounslow, the figure was more than 90 per cent.

Authorities yet to have heard how many schools will close include NUT strongholds such as Hackney and Islington.

Ahead of tomorrow's strike, ministers were keeping a low profile. An Education Department-spokesman said industrial action could only be "damaging to education and children".

A teacher starting in 1997 would have seen their salary rise by 63 per cent, he added.

Ministers were determined to address issues facing teachers and other key workers but would not respond to industrial action. …

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