TEACHERS went on strike across South Tyneside yesterday as part of a nationwide protest over pensions, pay and conditions.
More than half the borough’s 62 schools closed their doors because of the walkout, staged by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Union of Schoolmasters-Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).
The strike shut 32 schools, with 14 remaining fully open and another 16 partially open.
Teachers are opposed to plans to allow schools to set teachers’ salaries individually and link to performance rather than have a standardised national pay structure.
They also argue that pension changes will leave members having to pay in more to get less, and they have concerns over worsening working conditions leading to longer hours.
Teaching union members organised a picket line outside Harton Technology College in South Shields, and other teachers from the borough took part in a mass rally in Durham.
Jill McManus, the NUT’s secretary for South Tyneside, said: “The response has been amazing.
“Parents have been more than understanding. They have been very supportive.
“We have got to the point where we’ve had to say ‘enough is enough’. All we are asking for is for the Government to listen to what we have to say. It is quite a simple request. We want the Government to talk to us.
“The minister of education for Wales agreed to talk to teachers in Wales, so they called off their strike.
“We wouldn’t be on strike now if our Education secretary, Michael Gove, had agreed to listen to us.”
Six of the borough’s secondary schools were closed yesterday.
Of the other three, Whitburn C of E Academy was only open to Year 11 pupils, Jarrow School was restricted to teaching Year 7, and St Joseph’s RC Academy in Hebburn just held lessons for Year 11 and sixth-form pupils.
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “We provided guidance to schools on how to decide whether they would be able to stay open, partially open or need to close fully.
“We encouraged headteachers to try to keep schools open or partially open wherever possible.
“The decisions of the schools were published on the council’s website to help parents make alternative arrangements on the day.”
A Department for Education spokesperson added: “All strikes do is disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession.”