Q&A: Teachers' strike
As thousands of teachers in several parts of England go on strike over pay, pensions and conditions, we look at the backdrop to the industrial dispute.
Why are teachers striking?
Members of the NUT and Nasuwt are taking industrial action over a range of issues affecting teachers including pay, pensions, what they say are excessive workloads, working conditions and job cuts. The unions say teachers are deeply concerned about the impact these imposed changes are having on the morale of the teaching profession, the recruitment and retention of teachers and on the provision of quality education for pupils.
They accuse Education Secretary Michael Gove of making changes to teachers' pay, pensions and conditions of service which are making it harder for schools to recruit and retain good teachers.
The main bone of contention is the introduction of a tougher version of performance related pay and what the unions say is an attack on national pay structures.
How widespread is the action?
The walkout is affecting schools in authorities in London, Cumbria, the South East, North East and South West. It is the second in a string of three planned joint regional strikes in England.
The first was at the end of June and in the north-west of England. Unions said 2,765 schools across 22 authorities were affected, but the Department for Education stressed that only 1,214 schools closed . Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are not affected by the action. The second, earlier this month, closed or partially closed at least 2,500 schools in 49 authorities in the east of England, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber. The unions have said unless there is a resolution they will hold a national one-day strike before Christmas.
What does the government say?
Secretary of State Michael Gove has been clear about his feelings towards teaching unions. He has made numerous speeches in which he has attacked them for obstructing his plans to change the education system in England and, with it, the way teachers are paid. He also claims the leadership of these unions is motivated by ideological reasons.
The Department for Education accuses the unions of striking over the government's measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more. This refers to the performance related pay structures just introduced in September under which teachers will only progress up pay scales if they meet certain standards. The government has been clear that good teaching is one of the key ways to improve school performance.
It says any industrial action disrupts pupils' education, inconveniences parents and damages the profession's reputation in the eyes of the public.
Is there hope of a settlement soon?
It seems unlikely. The unions say the secretary of state is refusing to engage in genuine talks about their concerns, despite numerous requests. But Mr Gove says that he has met with the NUT and Nasuwt nearly 40 times, and with all teaching unions many more times since taking office.
The NUT says that although there have been meetings, discussions have not addressed the issues of concern. Instead they have focused on how government plans are implemented.
NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said: "The last time we met with Michael Gove was on the 17 June. This was only the second time the education secretary had met us to discuss the dispute in over a year and even on these rare occasions there has been a refusal to discuss any of the substantive issues with us. There is no use in Michael Gove saying his door is always open if you are never permitted to pass."
But Mr Gove insists he is still happy to meet with both unions, and has said he will meet them "any place, anytime, anywhere, as many times as would be helpful to them". However, he recently upped the war of words by criticising union officials who take a lot of time off from their teaching jobs to carry out union work.