Hundreds of schools shut as teachers march to Whitehall over workloads and pensions dispute

Schools across east London have been hit today by the one-day teachers’ strike as they prepare to march down Whitehall this-morning.

The action by the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters & Union of Women Teachers has closed most schools in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Barking & Dagenham.

The unions are in dispute with education secretary Michael Gove over planned changes to teachers’ pay and contracts, working conditions and pensions.

Parents have been advised to contact schools to check if they are open.

“Michael Gove has angered the entire profession with his constant criticism and changes and his absolute refusal to listen to teachers,” said the NUT local Secretary Alex Kenny.

“We don’t like taking strike action—but if he won’t listen, we have no choice.”

The union expects 75 secondary and primary schools in Tower Hamlets alone to be shut, with 15 partially hit. But Tower Hamlets council said yesterday it expected more schools to remain open.

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Teachers have been meeting parents outside many schools this-morning, including Langdon Park Secondary in Poplar, where they have been getting more signatures to their national petition calling for the Education Secretary to suspend his plans to change teacher workloads and pensions and to resume “meaningful talks” with the unions.

Teachers at Barking Abbey School have been leafleting outside since the start of term to explain to parents why they are striking, accusing the government of putting children’s education and future “at risk” and collecting hundreds of signatures supporting them.

The east London teachers are joining thousands of others from all over the South East for the march past Downing Street to a protest rally at Westminster’s Emmanuel Centre, assembling at Malet Street at 10.30am.

The NUT’s General Secretary, Christine Blower, said: “We are aware about the inconvenience it causes parents. Striking is never a step teachers take lightly, but we’re faced with a government that is refusing to listen.”

The strike follows the one-day action at the beginning of the month in the Midlands and the North. Plans are also ready for a national strike before the end of the school term if the deadlock with the government isn’t resolved.

The Department for Education expressed “disappointment” that the NUT and NASUWT are striking over government’s measures “to allow heads to pay good teachers more”.

A Whitehall spokesman said: “All strikes will do is disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession.” The Department had met the unions “many times” and would continue doing so.