Two schools shut in protest over academies

Two schools were shut yesterday as teachers' leaders escalated their strike action against proposals to set up new privately sponsored academies.

Members of the National Union of Teachers and National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers walked out over plans to turn two comprehensive schools, Chalvedon and Barstable in Basildon, Essex, into an academy sponsored by the hedge fund financier Martin Finegold. The teachers are protesting at plans to make them work longer hours and go back to compulsory lunchtime supervision.

Today, teachers will strike at four secondary schools in Tamworth, Staffordshire, where council leaders are backing a plan to close their sixth-forms and transfer pupils to a newly established academy run by the Landau Forte group. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the proposal would "rip the heart out of sixth-form provision".

The strikes are part of a growing campaign by the unions against academies which forced plans to be shelved for a new academy at Sinfin school in Derby, another comprehensive, earlier this year.