Hundreds of schools closed as teachers in the north-west stage one day strike

Workers strike over increases to pension contributions and cuts to the size of payouts

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of schools were closed today as teachers fired the first shots in a campaign of strike action against Government threats to their pay and pensions.

Leaders of the National Union of Teachers and National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers targeted 2,765 schools in the north-west of England for one-day strike action.

If there is no resolution of the dispute, further regional strikes will take place in the autumn term followed by a national stoppage before Christmas.

Early indications were of strong support for the strike with around 200,000 children kept home for the day. In Knowsley for instance, 47 schools had sent all children home for the day, while 12 were partially closed and only two were fully open.

The teachers are protesting at government plans to scrap annual pay increments - confirmed in Chancellor George Osborne's comprehensive spending review yesterday. From September, headteachers will be able to decide which members of staff get rises.

They are also incensed about increases to their pension contributions and cuts to the size of their pensions.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the unions would review the situation after today's strikes. However, she added that Education Secretary Michael Gove had appeared intransigent in discussions with teachers' leaders.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said it was “disappointed” with the strike action and would have thought the unions would have supported plans to give higher pay to good teachers.