Parents face school strike misery

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THOUSANDS of parents across Hartlepool are facing a childcare nightmare this week after it was revealed more than half of the town’s schools will be closed during a national day of strike action.

Teachers across the country will walk out on Thursday in a day of industrial action called by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Of the 38 schools in Hartlepool, 20 will be closed for the day while a further nine will operate limited lessons led by staff who are not represented by the unions on strike.

Only nine schools will be open as normal, leaving hundreds of parents across town searching for arrangements to have their youngsters looked after for the day.

Across Hartlepool, it is estimated that a total of 9,043 pupils from the 15,119 currently registered in full-time education within the town’s schools will be missing from lessons as a result of the strike.

Teachers have opted to walk out in protest at proposals to change their pension plans, which would effectively see them working longer hours, paying more into their schemes but getting less when they retire.

Hartlepool College of Further Education and Hartlepool Sixth Form College will both be open as normal, with striking lecturers replaced for the day.

NUT leader Christine Blower said that “teachers do not take strike action lightly” but accused the Government of trying to “ride roughshod over them” in changes to their pensions.

ATL president Andy Brown said his union’s first national strike was agreed with “deep reluctance”.

Both unions have said the date was chosen to strike to avoid “as little disruption as possible” to pupils preparing for exams.

But the Government has been critical of the action.

Prime Minister David Cameron will call today on public sector unions to halt planned industrial action and accept that their pension packages are unsustainable and must be reformed.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We are clear that a strike by teachers will only damage pupils’ learning and inconvenience their busy working parents.”

It is understood the vast majority of teachers in Hartlepool are represented by either the NUT or the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), though that organisation did not hold a ballot for any industrial action.

Parents will be informed of how they will be affected in letters sent home from schools this week.

In east Durham, Acre Rigg, Blackhall, Seascape, Thornley, Wheatley Hill and Yohden primary schools have confirmed they will be closed, though parents are being urged to contact any other schools to check whether they are open.

About 220,000 NUT members were balloted over the pensions changes.

Around nine out of 10 (92 per cent) of those who voted, backed the strike action with a turnout of 40 per cent

Just over half of the ATL’s members were eligible to vote – the rest are not members of the pension scheme – and 83 per cent of the ATL members of those who voted backed the strike action on a turn-out of 35 per cent.

SCHOOLS CLOSED:

Hart Primary, Brougham Primary, Eldon Grove Primary, Stranton Primary, Ward Jackson Primary, Owton Manor Primary, West View Primary, Throston Primary, Clavering Primary, Barnard Grove Primary, Rift House Primary, St Peter’s Elwick CE Primary, Greatham CofE Primary, St Aidan’s Primary, St Cuthbert’s Primary, St Teresa’s Primary, St Bega’s Primary, St Hild’s CofE VA School, Springwell School. Fens Primary School and nursery is closed because of a previously arranged teacher training day.

SCHOOLS OPEN:

Seaton Carew Nursery, Golden Flatts Primary, Kingsley Primary, Rossmere Primary, Grange Primary, St Joseph’s RC Primary, Dyke House Sports & Technology College, High Tunstall College of Science, Catcote School.

SCHOOLS PARTIALLY CLOSED:

Jesmond Road Primary, Lynnfield, St Helen’s, West Park Primary, Sacred Heart Primary, St John Vianney, Holy Trinity CE Primary, Manor College, English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College.