THE EDUCATION of thousands of pupils of all ages across West Suffolk was disrupted yesterday as hundreds of teachers – along with other public service unions – mounted a one-day strike in protest at proposed Government changes to pensions and retirement ages.
Whole schools were forced to close and others had to shut out complete year groups and classes as the National Union of Teachers, supported by the Union of Teachers and Lecturers, abandoned classrooms.
But many schools, particularly those with lower or limited union membership, opened as normal while in some cases staff were only able to supervise, rather than teach.
King Edward VI Upper School, in Bury St Edmunds, had to close but every student was sent away on Wednesday with a specially-prepared homework pack with meaningful subject activities to carry out, with pupils’ work due to be checked in their first lessons back today.
The effect on County Upper School, in Bury, which opened, was reduced because nearly half a complete year group was away on previously arranged educational trips to Barcelona, in Spain, France and two groups in London.
A Suffolk County Council website – http://schoolclosures.suffolk.gov.uk – was being updated thorughout the week, throwing up numerous odd situations.For example, in Mildenhall, College Heath Middle School was open, but Riverside Middle closed, apart from those on a day trip; in Stowmarket, Combs Middle School closed, but Combs Ford Primary School shut its reception classes, with the rest of the school open, and on Bury St Edmunds’ Howard estate the middle school closed, but the primary remained open.
Suffolk NUT secretary Graham White apologised to parents who had to miss work or hire childminders yesterday.
“Teachers are not childminders,” he stressed, blaming Government ‘intransigence’ for the dispute.
Staff were being expected to increase contributions, work longer and retire with smaller pension pots, said Mr White, whose union could repeat the strike action in the autumn.
Teachers handed out leaflets on Cornhill in Bury yesterday, while banner carrying staff also protested outside West Suffolk College and the Jobcentre.