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School’s out as teachers strike

By MIG: Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: September 25, 2013

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HUNDREDS of parents across the Staffordshire Moorlands are being forced to find alternative arrangements for their children as teachers prepare to go on strike.

The NASUWT and NUT unions have confirmed that, as part of a jointly co-ordinated campaign to ‘Protect Teachers and Defend Education’, there will be strike action on Tuesday, October 1, across regions including the West Midlands.

Claiming to represent nine out of 10 teachers, the two unions are seeking to resolve their disputes with Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove over “adverse changes to teachers’ pay, pensions, working conditions and jobs”.

Out of the 26 schools we contacted across Leek and surrounding villages, six said they are to close on Tuesday, three had not made any decision yet as they were waiting for teachers to notify whether they will be striking or not, while nine are to stay open.

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At the time we went to print, the remaining eight schools had not yet responded to our enquiry.

Schools set to close their doors on Tuesday include Beresford Memorial First, Woodcroft First, St Edward’s Academy, Churnet View Middle, Leek High, and Westwood College, all in Leek.

The three schools of the Leek Federation, which consists of Churnet View Middle and Leek High schools, as well as Westwood College, have sent letters to parents informing them of the decision to close for the day.

In the letter, chairman of governors for the Leek Feder - ation, Mandy Bennett, said: “You will be aware that a number of trades unions have recently balloted their members about the possibility of industrial action over public sector pension reform.

“The date set for this particular industrial action is Tuesday, October 1. I am now in a position to know how many of our teaching staff across the Federation are going to exercise their right to take industrial action on this date.

“In making a decision about the Federation’s response to this situation, I have to balance a desire to maintain the continuity of education for our students, against their health and safety with reduced levels of adult supervision.

“I know that we are going to be in a position where we cannot adequately supervise students on our school sites and so the purpose of this letter is to inform you that Churnet View Middle School, Leek High Specialist Technology School and Westwood College will be closed to students on this date.” Mrs Bennett added: “Should the unions decide to withdraw their strike action, the schools will be open to students as usual.

“Should this be the case, we will inform parents as soon as we are made aware.”

Mum-of-six Karen Dunn-Fox, who lives in Buxton Road, Leek, has two children who attend Beresford Memorial First School, and four children who attend Churnet View Middle School.

Both schools are set to close next Tuesday for the teacher's industrial action if the strike is not called off.

Mrs Dunn-Fox, aged 42, said she felt for many parents affected by the strike threat.

She added: “I am out of work at the moment, which is just as well as I will be able to look after my children and not have to find alternative care for them.

“However, I do feel sorry for those parents who do have jobs as they are now going to have to find someone to look after their children at such short notice.

“I know that teachers work hard and it can’t be easy for them, but can’t they strike when the children are on holiday?

“Why disrupt childrens’ education and also, in a lot of cases, parents’ working lives?”

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “At the start of the new academic year, the last thing teachers wish to be doing is preparing for further industrial action.

“It is a great shame that the Education Secretary has let things get to this stage.

“With pay, pensions and working conditions being systematically attacked and an Education Secretary who refuses to listen or negotiate with teachers, we have no other choice.

“Michael Gove has demoralised an entire profession; it is time that he started to listen for the sake of teachers, pupils and education.” Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, added: “The attacks on teachers are relentless.

“The reward for their hard work, dedication and commitment has been a vicious assault on their pay, conditions and professionalism.

“Teachers will be angered by the recklessness of the Secretary of State’s continuing failure to take seriously their concerns and engage in genuine discussions to address them.”

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