Teachers’ strike will leave schools unable to open’

THE corridors of Camden s schools will be deserted today as many of the borough s teachers take part in the first national strike for 21 years

Ben McPartland

THE corridors of Camden's schools will be deserted today as many of the borough's teachers take part in the first national strike for 21 years.

Many schools have been forced to close as members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) stage a 24-hour walkout over pay.

As the Ham&High went to press yesterday it was still unclear how many schools would have to shut down, but it was clear that most would be affected in some way.

Headteacher of Tufnell Park's Acland Burghley school Michael Shew said it was impossible for his school to stay open.

He said: "Because of the number of teachers who are members of the NUT we would only be able to teach about one fifth of the timetable and it would be all over the place.

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"There are also health and safety considerations, because there would be so few teachers in school."

NUT members voted to take industrial action because they are unhappy with the current offer of a pay increase.

The School Teachers' Review Body recommended a 2.45 per cent increase this year followed by a further rise of 2.3 per cent in the next two years.

But the NUT wants the pay increase to be pegged to the rate of inflation, which currently stands at more than four per cent.

The strike may still be called off at the 11th hour but schools could still remain closed because headteachers would be left with no time to get the word out.

Mr Shew refused to comment when asked if he supported the NUT's action but Camden Council is clearly unhappy with the teachers' decision.

A town hall spokeswoman said: "The council deeply regrets the NUT's decision to take strike action against the pay deal for teachers.

"This is part of a national campaign and could mean Camden schools will need to partially or fully close today.

"Our priority is to minimise disruption to children and young people's education. We are working closely with all our schools, offering practical advice and support to keep disruption to a minimum and keep schools open wherever possible. The headteacher and chair of governors will decide if it is safe for individual schools to open."

Kevin Courtney, from Camden NUT, said: "Teaching is one of the key tasks in any society so they should be allowed to have a standard of living which is not falling.

"We want to have a pay rise that doesn't mean a pay cut, which is effectively what the offer will be.

"Teachers who have scrimped and saved to get onto the housing market or those with children in full-time education are finding it increasingly difficult to cope. If the government doesn't act then it will lead to a situation of teacher shortages."