Schools closed as teachers walk out

HUNDREDS of teachers and civil servants in Northumberland will be on strike today after talks between the Government and unions over pension cuts broke down.

It is part of a national walk-out involving members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the University and College Union (UCU) and the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union.

Around 55 county schools will be affected by the industrial action, with arrangements for pupils being made by each establishment.

Some will be closed completely, others will be sending some pupils home and some will be open.

Parents are asked to check with their children’s schools to find out what the plans are.

Union leaders have been in discussions with Government ministers about three major proposals to do with pension schemes.

Simon Elliott, regional secretary for the North East PCS, said picket lines are expected outside Job Centres in the county.

He added: “The key issue for most people is that Government want people to work longer and pay more to get their pension. They claim that the pension scheme is unaffordable but in reality the National Audit Office said the civil service scheme and teachers’ pension scheme are all sustainable.

“What our members believe is it is just an extra tax to pay off the deficit and it will go straight into the treasury coffers and it will cost people a day’s pay every month.”

Jon Bryan, regional support official for UCU Northern region, said that around 150 members of staff from Northumberland College will be on strike today.

Picket lines will at the college site in the morning with members travelling to Newcastle for a mass rally in the afternoon.

He said: “Lecturers are disappointed that the talks with Government have failed to bring about a solution.

“Our brief is that the Government could have done more to prevent the action. Unfortunately this level of disruption is to be expected.”

Schools affected by the strike are: Abbeyfields (partially open, but four classes affected), Darras Hall (closed), Ellington (closed), King Edward VI (open to Sixth Form, closed to rest of school), Morpeth First (closed), Chantry Middle (closed), Newminster Middle (closed), Stobhillgate (closed), Ponteland High (closed), Ponteland First (closed), Richard Coates Middle (closed), St Robert’s First (closed), Tritlington First (early years unit closed but rest open).