When news happens, text CHRON and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email & phone.
Teaching unions call for strike to shut all schools
“WE WANT to shut every school.”
That was the claim from a union boss just days before industrial action is due to be staged by teachers across Hampshire.
Scores of schools have already told parents they will not be opening as teachers walk out in a dispute over changes to their pensions, pay and conditions.
But this morning many parents still did not know whether their children will be at school next Thursday when the main teaching unions the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union Women Teachers (NASUWT) stage their joint day of action as part of a series of rolling strikes.
Speaking ahead of the strike, NASUWT executive member for Hampshire, Paul Watkins, said he did not agree with headteachers attempting to keep their schools open as “a badge of honour” but rather school leaders should be supporting striking staff by closing the school gates for the day.
He said: “Our intention is to shut every school. There is no agreement between teachers and their heads about informing them whether they intend to take industrial action.”
He added: “I think headteachers should be supporting the action by closing and not trying to remain open as some sort of badge of honour.”
Mr Watkins, who has children of school age, also said that schools did not exist as “the nation’s babysitting service” when asked what working parents were supposed to do if their children were sent home on the day of the strike.
He said: “I obviously do have sympathy with parents who have got to take the day off and certainly I think it is a reflection of the company they work for if there are any issues with people having to take time off. We would hope parents are able to see that this is not a selfish act by teachers but a principled action that we are taking for the future of our children’s education.
“The question they have to ask is: what sort of education do they want to see for their children in the 21st century?”
However, his NUT counterpart Pete Sopowski said while the national policy was that staff did not have to inform headteachers of their intention to strike, he personally would do so.
Mr Sopowski said: “The national policy is that teachers don’t have to inform their headteacher but personally I would tell my head and encourage my colleagues to tell them if they are taking strike action.”
Last night almost 30 schools had confirmed they were intending to close or partially close when contacted by the Daily Echo.
Some schools said that while no lessons would be held, the school would be open to students to study independently if their parents had no way of looking after them.
Both Hampshire County and Southampton City councils have written to all headteachers asking them to establish whether their school will have to close in order for parents to make alternative arrangements.
Headteachers have started to notify their local education authorities if they had already reached the decision to close or if they were confident they would be open.
A spokesman for the city council said: “It is difficult to predict the exact nature of the impact of industrial action on Southampton schools as staff are not obliged to advise headteachers of their intention to strike until the day itself.
“Headteachers are being asked to try to determine the likely impact of staff striking ahead next Thursday and whether this means they will have to close, or partially close, their schools so they can advise parents accordingly. This will enable parents to make alternative arrangements for their children in the event of their school being closed for the day.”
Councillor Sarah Bogle, Southampton City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, added: “Any decision to close a school will be one for individual headteachers and their governing bodies to make. However we are supporting and encouraging schools to do all they can to remain open during industrial action.
“The council is advising headteachers and governors on how to manage any issues that may arise from this action but schools will have to make the final decision on whether they have sufficient staff to enable them to safely open on the day.”
The two main teaching unions are staging a day of joint action as part of a series of rolling strikes that have already hit other parts of the county.
They say they have been left with no alternative after education secretary Michael Gove “refused” to negotiate over the unions’ concerns.
Mr Gove has condemned the strike action that has already been seen around the country and urged teachers not to put their ideology before children’s interests.
Comments are closed on this article.