Thousands of schools face shutdown next month as teachers stage a one-day national strike over new moves to introduce performance related pay, increase their workload and raise their pension contributions.
Leaders of the National Union of Teachers say they have called a one-day strike for 26 March in protest at what they say is the failure of Education Secretary Michael Gove to hold constructive talks over the dispute.
The second union involved in the dispute, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, will decide next week over whether it will step industrial action, too.
“Strike action is always a last resort for teachers and we deeply regret the fact that we have been put in a position whereby we have no alternative,” said Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.
She said that after promising talks “subsequently, the Education Secretary has put obstacle after obstacle in the way of talks, showing no serious attempt to resolve - or even discuss - the matters in dispute”.
The strike, which follows a series of regional strikes last term and a work-to-rule which has been continuing for more than a year, comes as ministers have given heads the power to set teachers’ pay levels and are urging schools to stay open for up to 10 hours a day so pupils can do “prep” and take part in other extra-curricular activities - such as sport and debating societies.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Parents will struggle to understand why the NUT is pressing ahead with strikes over the Government’s measures to let heads pay good teachers more. They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request and those talks will begin shortly.”
Ms Blower said the strike could be called off if the Government entered into meaningful negotiations.