National teachers' strike set for 26 March

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Schools in England and Wales are set to be hit by a teachers' strike on 26 March in a dispute over pay, pensions and conditions, the NUT has said.

If it goes ahead it will be the third national strike since the NUT balloted members in 2011 but more recently it called off action for talks.

Teaching unions last met government officials in October.

The government said the action would damage children's education and would be unpopular with parents.

The dispute centres on the introduction of a new performance-related pay structure and tougher pension package.

The other big teaching union, the NASUWT, has walked out alongside the NUT in the last two national strikes.

But the NASUWT still has to decide whether it will go out on strike again and is due to meet next week.

If it does, nearly every school could potentially be affected by the action, as the unions have members in all schools in England and Wales.

'Obstacle after obstacle'

In a statement, NUT General Secretary Christine Blower said: "The NUT and NASUWT met with government officials in October - now over 17 weeks ago.

"Reassurances were given that Michael Gove would talk about a wide range of matters on implementation of pay and pensions and the direction of travel and implementation on conditions.

"Subsequently, the education secretary has put obstacle after obstacle in the way of talks, showing no serious attempt to resolve - or even to discuss - the matters in dispute.

"We on the other hand have made every effort. We cancelled the strike planned for November and postponed action in February. We have indicated we will meet with Michael Gove anywhere, any time to seek to resolve the disputes in the interest of the education service."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Women Teachers, said: "It was deeply disappointing to teachers that, having agreed in October 2013 to a programme of talks with the NASUWT and NUT, the secretary of state did not take the opportunity to progress this, despite planned strike action for November 2013 being called off to allow progress to be made.

'Talks to begin shortly'

"The only way to resolve a dispute is for the parties directly involved to sit down to have serious discussions on the issues of concern.

"The secretary of state needs to take the window of opportunity the NASUWT has offered to him to build trust and confidence with the teaching profession and to demonstrate that he is willing to discuss their deep concerns."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Parents will struggle to understand why the NUT is pressing ahead with strikes over the government's measures to let heads pay good teachers more.

"They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and those talks will begin shortly.

"Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is nevertheless taking strike action that will disrupt parents' lives, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession."

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