Teacher walkout over pay leaves schools crippled

TEACHERS walked out of two secondary schools yesterday as talks over a pay dispute failed to find a resolution

Ben McPartland

TEACHERS walked out of two secondary schools yesterday as talks over a pay dispute failed to find a resolution.

Most pupils at Hampstead secondary on Westbere Road and Maria Fidelis convent school had the day off as members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) called a 24-hour strike to protest over pay cuts for new recruits.

Early morning picket lines were set up outside the school gates as all but a few classrooms were closed down for the day.

NUT members are angry because recruitment and retention payments, which are worth around £2,000 annually, are no longer being paid automatically.

Whereas bosses at Maria Fidelis told the NUT they would not budge, governors at Hampstead School were involved in negotiations, but could not resolve the dispute before yesterday's strike.

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Branch secretary of Camden NUT Kevin Courtney said: "We believe these payments have helped stabilise teaching staff in Camden, which has helped children's education.

"We are confident we will get a deal we can recommend to members and we hope that we can do that without any further strikes."

Seventy teachers walked out at Hampstead School, with only pupils preparing for exams monitored by a skeleton staff.

Chairman of governors at Hampstead Geoff Berridge said: "We have negotiated with the NUT and we have given them an offer but they took it away and I believe they decided it was not adequate enough for them."

Headteacher Jacques Szemalikowski has written to all the striking teachers to express his disappointment at the walkout.

At Maria Fidelis 38 members of the NUT took part in industrial action.

Last year teachers at Parliament Hill school on Highgate Road staged three one-day walkouts before the dispute was resolved.

This week industrial action was averted at Acland Burghley school when governors struck a deal with the NUT over the payments.

A spokeswoman for Camden Council said: "We deeply regret the NUT members' decision to strike and our priority will be to minimise disruption to children and families caused by this action.

"Camden Council considers it inappropriate for industrial action, which will disrupt the education of young people in the borough, to be taken to resolve this issue.

"The decision taken by the schools' governing bodies is in keeping with national guidance resulting from changes overall in teachers' pay.

"Teacher vacancies in the borough remain low and it is right and proper that the allowances are used when we have hard to recruit posts. We are aware that schools in other boroughs have also considered these issues, and that a number have adopted the same approach."