Parents in limbo as teachers strike

The National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT from a previous protest over pay and pensions.
The National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT from a previous protest over pay and pensions.
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More than 15,000 Fylde children will miss school on Thursday – sparking a childcare headache for working parents.

Dozens of schools in Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde will shut their doors for the day as teachers head to the picket lines in a dispute over pensions, pay and the Government’s education reforms.

The Gazette has had confirmation from 38 schools in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre of closures or partial closures on Thursday.

All Blackpool’s secondary schools will be closed for the day – Bispham High, Collegiate High, Highfield Humanities College, Montgomery High, Palatine Community Sports College, St George’s High, St Mary’s Catholic College and Unity College.

While many parents will have to either take a day off work or make alternative arrangements for their children, some have been left in limbo not sure if their child’s school is closed or not.

Primary schools which have confirmed their closure are Boundary, Marton, Revoe Community, St Bernadette’s Catholic , St John’s CE, St John Vianney’s Catholic , St Nicholas CE, St Teresa’s Catholic, and Stanley primary schools and Thames Primary Academy.

St Michael’s CE Primary, in Kirkham, has told parents they should expect the school to partially close.

But this will not be confirmed until 8.45am on the day of the strike – just 10 minutes before the start of the school day.School management 
declined to comment on the timing of its decision.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) are taking part in the joint strike regarding “workload, pensions, pay, conditions and job security”.

The NUT says a pay freeze and pension contribution increases have cut the value of teachers’ pay by 15 per cent in real terms.

A spokesman added: “The NUT will not accept that teachers should work until they are 68, pay 50 per cent more for their pensions and get less in retirement.”

Ros Homer (pictured), Blackpool branch secretary for the NUT, said: “Headteachers will have written out to parents and should’ve made a decision a week ago.

“They should’ve had plenty of notice to make arrangements.

“We have massive issues with the Government over pensions and pay but this is about education and that’s what we are standing up for.”

Parents have taken to The Gazette’s Facebook page to discuss the strike.

Sharon Phillipson said: “I just feel so annoyed that because the teachers need to protect their pensions, some of my friends have to take a day off work and lose pay because they have no-one to watch their children.”

Jonathan Moore said: “If there comes a time in the future where I’m lectured regarding missing days and damaging my children’s education I know what my answer will be.”

Sarah Jane Robinson said: “Before everyone starts slating teachers, my niece is a primary school teacher and I always thought teachers had it easy, not now.

“The amount of hours she works is unbelievable, she is in school long before and after children are there, and works evenings and weekends too.”

A number of schools in Fylde – including Carr Hill High School and St Bede’s Catholic High School – have confirmed they are closing or partially closing.

In a letter sent home to parents Sarah Bamber, headteacher of Freckleton Strike Lane Primary School, said: “I do understand that this is inconvenient, however, there is no other option available to me.”

Headteachers have cited safety concerns being the reason for closures.

A letter sent to parents with children at Holy Family Primary School, Warton, said: “[The closure] is due to industrial action which teachers feel forced into at this time.

“The reason for the closure is that I cannot guarantee the children’s safety at school on that day.”

Parents at Kirkham and Wesham Primary School recieved a letter which said: “One parent in each family should have received a text with regards to next week’s proposed strike action.

“I recognise this will cause many of you considerable inconvenience in relation to your work commitments but as I have been informed by the LEA it is illegal for me to employ supply teachers or use support staff to cover the classes of anyone taking strike action, I am unable to open school to all pupils.”

The school will be closed to children in years one, two and six.

Other schools in Fylde, St Peter’s Catholic Primary School in Lytham, Lytham CE Primary School and Ribby with Wrea Endowed CE Primary School, will also be partially closed.

Wyre schools, including Cardinal Allen High School in Fleetwood, Fleetwood High School and Hodgson Academy in Poulton, have confirmed they are closing or partially closing on Thursday.

Lancashire County Council, which runs schools in Wyre and Fylde, says schools will decide on what they will do on an individual basis.

Coun Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “I understand the pressures schools and staff are under in the current climate yet appreciate this disruption to education is unfortunate.

“We will do what we can to support schools, teachers and families.”

County Coun Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for schools, said: “Schools are run by headteachers and governors, therefore they must decide how to react to the planned strike, based on the particular circumstances at their individual schools.

“We will, of course, offer support and advice, but it will be for headteachers to make their own decisions based on staffing numbers.”

Additional reporting by Mitchell Ranby