More than 300,000 pupils are likely to be sent home from schools in London and the Home Counties because of a one-day strike today by teachers and support staff.
Teachers' leaders will also come under pressure to back further industrial action if there are no moves towards a substantial increase in cost-of-living allowances.
The two biggest teachers' unions, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, are demanding a 100 per cent increase in the London allowance – bringing it to £6,000 a year. They are being supported by Unison, the union that represents teaching support staff and school caretakers.
The strike is likely to have its biggest impact in London because the caretakers' involvement will mean schools having to close. Some estimates have put the number of closures as high as 1,500 out of 2,200 primary and secondary schools.
Employers' leaders claim enthusiasm for strike action is waning. Graham Lane, the leader of the country's local education authorities, pointed out that the Association of Teachers and Lecturers had refused to back the strike. He said he also understood some NUT members were unwilling to withdraw their labour because only 30 per cent had voted in the ballot for strike action.
The unions argue that the final decision over their allowance is taken by the profession's independent review body, which takes evidence from the Government on pay. Therefore, they maintain that strike action is aimed at ministers and the review body.
Today's strike is the second one-day stoppage organised by teachers over allowances.
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