By Polly Curtis | The Guardian
Rush to inform parents of closures before Thursday as holiday ends.
More than 1,000 schools in England and Wales could be closed and most will have to send some children home when teachers take the first national strike action in 21 years on Thursday, figures obtained by the Guardian suggest.
Schools in the urban heartlands of the National Union of Teachers will be particularly affected but most parents have not yet been informed of closures because of school holidays.
The Guardian has surveyed 83 local authorities since Friday. Sixty-two responded and of those 25 could say how many schools would close, giving a total of 136. If the pattern is repeated across the country, nearly 2,000 schools could turn students away on Thursday.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Most secondary schools will be partially closed; a thousand could close. It will be very, very difficult for schools which have been on holiday to organise themselves this week.”
Two out of three schools return from their Easter holiday today, leaving headteachers under pressure to establish how many staff will be absent on Thursday, how much of the timetable they can offer, or whether to start informing parents immediately to make other arrangements for their children. One local authority was “desperately” trying to establish how widespread the action would be in order to inform parents before Thursday.
The uncertainty is compounded by the fact that not all the NUT’s 200,000 members back the strike, which is over a 2.45% pay offer – above the 2% limit the prime minister wants on public sector pay increases this year to control inflation, but well below the NUT’s original 10% claim.
The survey reveals:
· Suffolk and Cheshire could be the worst affected, with 28 closures each confirmed
· 12 schools will close in Cambridgeshire and nine schools in Brighton and Hove
· 10 schools in Bedfordshire are closing
· In Barnet four schools are earmarked for closure but plans are being drawn up to expand class sizes to keep more open
· Two schools in Hammersmith and Fulham will close but local authorities have only received notification from four of their 40 schools so far
· Bournemouth will close three schools and whole year groups in 11 others will be turned away
· Hounslow will close 10 schools and restrict lessons in 10 others
· Kingston upon Thames is closing four schools
A spokesman for Buckinghamshire said there were 1,800 NUT members in their schools but had no idea how many would strike: “We are desperately hoping headteachers will tell us whether they are closing early [in the] week but the NUT representative only has to give 24 hours’ notice. We’re expecting a deluge on Monday.”
Other teaching unions said they had received more inquiries about new membership than normal in the run-up to the strike. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said that since the action had been announced they had had a three-fold increase in applications for membership. “The numbers are in the thousands,” a spokesperson said.
Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the NUT, said: “We would expect that in London very large numbers would close on the basis of the information we have … We don’t expect any schools to be unaffected.”
Defending the strike, she said: “Since 2004 teachers’ pay has been cut year-on-year. We’re beginning to see that it’s harder to recruit young people into teaching.”
More than 100,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union working across 10 government departments and agencies will also strike over pay on Thursday.
Jim Knight, schools minister, said: “I am disappointed by the decision to strike. We believe that all teachers should be teaching and talking, and not walking out.”
Additional research by Fay Schlesinger and Alan Gardner