Hundreds of thousands of children will have their education disrupted next month when teachers across London and the South-east stage a one-day strike.
Most schools in the capital and the home counties are expected to be forced to close on 26 November. Members of the two largest teaching unions are demanding that their cost-of-living allowances are increased by at least 33 per cent.
The announcement yesterday of the result of strike ballots marks the unions' first confrontation with Charles Clarke, the new Secretary of State for Education, who has already accused union militants of damaging the reputation of the profession.
Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) are furious that their maximum London allowance is £3,105 while police officers receive £6,000.
They argue that schools in the capital are suffering from severe staff shortages because teachers cannot afford to live in London and the South-east. Teachers currently receive £3,105 extra for working in inner London or £2,043 in outer London, while those in high-cost areas surrounding the capital receive £792.
The third-biggest union, the normally moderate Association of Teachers and Lecturers, is also balloting its members over London allowances and is expected to join the other two unions in the walkout next month.
The NUT ballot showed that 81 per cent of staff were in favour of the strike and 19 per cent against. The turn-out was 40 per cent. In the NASUWT ballot, 57 per cent voted for the walkout and 43 per cent against, on a turn-out of 32 per cent.
Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "The Government must act quickly to bring the allowances at least into line with those awarded to the police, otherwise the flight of teachers from the capital will continue."
Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the NUT, said: "To Charles Clarke, my message is don't be tough on teachers, be tough for teachers. The solution is in your grasp – increase the allowances significantly."
In March, a strike by 6,000 teachers in the NUT over cost- of-living allowances led to half of London's 2,200 schools being closed or severely disrupted and an estimated 500,000 children missing school.
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