Education & Family

Three out of five schools in London hit by strike

Schools, colleges and universities across London have been hit by a one-day strike in protest at cuts to teachers' and lecturers' pensions.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and University and College Union (UCU) marched through the capital and protested outside the Department for Education.

The education department says three in five London schools have been affected.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "Strikes benefit no one."

Figures from the Department for Education show that a fifth of schools have been completely closed, two in five faced the cancellation of some lessons and two in five schools were fully open.

The figures had been gathered from 33 boroughs across London.

The UCU says 46 colleges and 16 universities have been affected by the walk-out.

The NUT says the action has been well supported, but its impact will vary from borough to borough.

The teachers' union says it has more than 55,000 members across London's 2,500 schools.

Pensions battle

Parents across the capital had been told by head teachers about plans to close or reduce lessons during the one-day walkout.

In some schools this has meant that younger pupils are at home while lessons continue for older year groups with approaching exams and tests.

Christine Blower, the NUT's general secretary, said the proposed increase in pension contributions represented an extra tax on teachers - which she contrasted with the cut in the top rate of income tax for the highest earners.

"Teachers cannot be expected to do anything other than defend the right to a pension which they have paid into in good faith, and which the government has shown no evidence that they are either unsustainable or unaffordable," said Ms Blower.

"It is the government's intransigence and total disregard of the facts that has forced teachers to continue with this action."

Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers' union, said that her members were "unlikely militants" who took no pleasure in striking.

"However, it is not fair for ordinary people to suffer huge cuts in their standards of living at a time when the government is handing out huge tax giveaways to big business and high earners."

The one-day action in London follows a national strike over the pension changes staged by education staff last November, which closed a majority of schools.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "This deal is as good as it gets and takes the right balance - guaranteeing teachers one of the best pensions available, but keeping a lid on rising costs for the taxpayer.

"We've been in serious talks for months with unions to address their concerns and reach a final settlement. This strike, ordered by the NUT's leaders, will not now get its members any further forward.

"Reforms to public sector pensions are essential - the status quo is not an option. The cost to the taxpayer of teacher pensions is already forecast to double from £5bn in 2006 to £10bn in 2016, and will carry on rising rapidly as life expectancy continues to rocket."

The action by the NUT and UCU unions has been timed to coincide with protests by other public sector unions over pensions.

Unite said thousands of its NHS members who had rejected the pension changes would stage demonstrations outside hundreds of hospitals and clinics across the UK as part of a campaign set to continue into the summer.

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