MORE than 700 hundred schools across Yorkshire have been closed or disrupted by the National Union of Teachers’ latest strike action in an ongoing dispute over workoad and pay and pension reforms.
Teachers manned picket lines around the region today and also attended a series of rallies held in Bradford, Hull, Leeds and Sheffield.
At least 780 Yorkshire schools were affected by the national strike action, according to figures provided by town halls across the region.
However the actual figure is likely to be higher as it only included schools which had told local councils whether they were open.
The NUT’s ongoing industrial action focus on three issues, changes to pay, pensions and workload.
Speaking ahead of the walkout, NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said that the strike was a “last resort”.
“We have been trying to persuade Michael Gove to change his mind, he is unwilling,” he said.
“Michael Gove’s policies are exhausting and demoralising teachers and that’s very bad and disruptive for education.
“Thousands of good people are leaving the profession, we are building up to a teacher shortage and our children deserve energetic and enthusiastic teachers not demoralised and exhausted ones.”
Mr Courtney added that the union wants the Education Secretary to change his policies on school accountability, which the NUT says is leading to “enormous” workloads for teachers, performance related pay and pensions.
The Department for Education has said that parents will “struggle to understand” why the NUT was pressing ahead with its strike.
“They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and talks have been taking place weekly,” a spokesman said.
“Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is taking action that will disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession.”
And David Cameron’s official spokesman has said that the Prime Minister would call on teachers not to strike because the action “disrupts children’s education and children’s families.”
Andy Major, operations manager at Emergency Childcare said that the strike is set to leave working parents with a problem.
The firm had seen a “massive influx” of emergency bookings, he said.
There were indications yesterday that relations between the NUT and fellow teaching union the NASUWT - which together have been running a joint campaign of industrial action - have become strained.
Both unions took part in a series of regional strikes in the autumn term, but the NASUWT decided not to take part in today’s national action.
A leaked memo signed by NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates claims that some members have faced threats, insults and intimidation from members of the NUT.
The document, sent to senior local NASUWT officials, which has been posted on social networking websites, says NASUWT members should not cover for NUT staff who are taking part in the strike.
But it adds: “The onus is on the NUT to challenge headteachers who seek to undermine their strike action. It is not the responsibility of the NASUWT and its members to make the NUT action successful.”
The memo goes on to say: “We should not tolerate any threats, insults or attempts to intimidate our members or activists by the NUT. Unfortunately, in some areas, this has been a hallmark of the activity to date. The NASUWT, as an independent trade union, has made its decision with regard to industrial action strategy and that should be respected by a sister trade union.”
It also accuses the NUT of running “abusive social media campaigns” and making “aggressive accusations” about the NASUWT.
The memo does also say that the NASUWT remains “committed to the joint declaration and seeking to work with the NUT”.
An NUT spokeswoman insisted that the union had not been running a national campaign against the NASUWT.
“There has been no national campaign against NASUWT members regarding strike action,” she said.
“There has been no negative campaigning from the national NUT headquarters and the NASUWT has not brought this to our attention. We continues to engage in talks with Government alongside the NASUWT and other teacher unions to resolve the very pressing issues that face the teaching profession.”
An NASUWT spokesman declined to comment on the memo or the NUT’s strike action.
As NUT members joined marches, rallies and picket lines across England and Wales, union leaders said the early indications were that the strike is well-supported.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “Certainly the message we are getting is that the action is well-supported. On the back of the 60-hour week workload diary survey teachers are just feeling overwhelmed.”