Pensions strike could hit nearly half of Welsh schools

Nearly half of Wales' schools will be affected on Thursday if planned strike action by teachers goes ahead.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) have said they will take part in industrial action over pension changes.

Of approximately 1,880 schools in Wales nearly 400 have said they will be closed and around 440 partially closed.

The Welsh Government said it aimed to "minimise the impact" on its services.

UK Education Secretary Michael Gove has said the strike would harm the teaching profession's reputation.

With thousands of teachers expected to join in the action on Thursday, parents across Wales are having to reconsider their childcare arrangements.

Some areas look likely to be worst hit than others.

They include Newport where 43 schools are set to close or partially close, whereas in Ceredigion the authority said it had received no confirmation of any school's intention to take strike action.

More than 100 schools will be closed or partially closed in Cardiff with only 16 across the city saying they expect to be fully open.

In Pembrokeshire two schools out of 71 will fully close and 41 will be open but closed for some classes, while in Conwy around 38 will be affected. In Wrexham, nine of its schools are scheduled tol be closed or partially closed, with two open.

A list of councils and how they expect to be affected is here.

The walk outs across Wales and England are the unions' response to changes to public sector pensions.

Ministers and union leaders are holding talks in the run up to a planned strike.

Thousands of other public sector workers, including court workers and police support staff, will take co-ordinated strike action on Thursday.

Members of the PCS union will join teaching unions in a walkout over pay and pensions.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, said he had never seen such spontaneous anger from teachers before.

"Teachers are not doing this lightly," said Mr Dixon. "ATL is renowned for its moderation. This is the first time in 127 years that we have gone on national strike.

"That's an indication of how strongly our members feel about the proposals, and how angry they are that the government in Westminster will not enter into meaningful negotiations, that they just want to impose this onto teachers."

Dr Dixon said the union's members were particularly angry about the proposal that teachers work until they are 68.

"Teaching is a very demanding job, both physically and mentally," he said. "Do we really want children being taught by 68-year-olds?"

David Evans, secretary of NUT Cymru, said the union remained committed to try to have meaningful discussions with the UK government, and that the day of strike action was "the last resort".

He said: "No one wants to go on strike and we would happily call it off if the government wanted to play ball, but it seems to be their way or no way.

"There's clearly essential information they are withholding from us. Their refusal to budge on any issues is unfortunate.

"That's not the way government should operate when you are talking about so many thousands of public sector employees.

"It's almost as if they want the strike action, but that's not in anybody's interests."

Teaching unions not striking on Thursday have issued their members with legal advice on the strike.

Anna Brychan, director of NAHT Cymru, said: "We have made our members aware that the decision on whether to keep their school open or not will depend on a health and safety risk assessment on the day.

"We would also expect employees to make every reasonable attempt to cross the picket line."

Ms Brychan added that NAHT Cymru would be balloting for strike action "probably in the autumn".

"We do have significant concerns about current pension proposals and their impact on recruiting," she said.

Though not taking part itslef, Wales-based education UCAC said it supported the strike action.

Elaine Edwards, UCAC's general secretary said: "We're one hundred per cent behind this strike. The viciousness of the Government's attacks on public sector pensions is entirely uncalled-for.

"The government's proposals will mean a severe and immediate pay cut for staff, and will see teachers and lecturers struggling to make ends meet in their retirement."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Most public sector workforce groups in Wales are covered by UK or England and Wales pay arrangements.

"This includes the civil service, the NHS, teachers, other local government, higher education and further education staff.

"As such, pensions are not a devolved matter and our focus is on minimising the impact of any industrial action on our public services."

Prime Minister David Cameron is due to make another call for public sector workers to call off Thursday's strike over pensions later.

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