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Teachers strike: 20,000 pupils to stay away from school today
MORE than 20,000 pupils will stay at home today as teachers strike in the latest walkout over pay and conditions.
Schools will be closed and classrooms will remain empty as members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) stage a one-day walkout.
The strike comes as union bosses warn that schools in Hampshire could be hit by a serious shortage of quality teachers as scores leave the profession due to increasing workload.
Hampshire education boss Peter Edgar said the county was seeing an “emerging problem” with the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers.
Southampton NUT secretary Pete Sopowski warned that such a shortage could force recruitment from overseas.
He said: “The worry is that graduates will be put off teaching when they consider what other jobs they could get for the same money and less of the workload. The worry is that teaching will be one of those jobs that people in this country won't want to do.”
He said teachers from overseas could be recruited in the same way posts have been filled in the NHS and other public services by migrant workers.
Cllr Edgar said the county was already seeing fewer applications for advertised teaching jobs whilst also recording more teachers leaving before retirement age.
He said: “We are seeing an emerging problem with the recruitment and retention of teachers in Hampshire, but that is a picture that is mirrored country-wide.
It is particularly noticeable in the area of maths, English and science teaching - the core curriculum subjects, he added.
Now education bosses are doing what they can to make teaching a more attractive career in Hampshire by ensuring support for teachers and head teachers which included personnel and career development services.
It's the same in Southampton where education chiefs say experienced teachers, particularly specialists, were becoming harder to recruit.
Striking teachers - who will not be paid today - are expected to rally at Guildhall Square at 11.30am today to demonstrate the depth of feeling towards the current government's pay offer of one per cent in the face of upping their pension contributions and a change to their pay scale.
A Department for Education spokesman said the saved money would stay within the school system as it would be retained by either the school or local authority.
Mr Sopowski pointed to a recent workload survey carried out by the Department for Education which said primary school teachers worked an average of 60 hours a week whilst secondary school teachers worked on average 56 hours per week.
He said members had been left with no choice but to walk out with figures showing two in five teachers leave the profession within five years of starting the job due to the intense workload.
Almost two thirds of schools affected
TODAY'S strike will leave 64 per cent of schools in Southampton closed or partially closed today.
As of last night 40 schools in Hampshire had also notified the authority that they would be affected in some way by the industrial action.
Union bosses vowed to continue with the industrial action despite education minister Michael Gove writing an open letter to the seven main teaching unions, setting out the progress he believed had been made in an ongoing programme of talks between them and the Department for Education.
In the letter, he said he wanted to underline his commitment to the talks process, despite not personally taking part himself.
The NUT have criticised the move claiming the talks have not made any progress in the key areas of dispute and that the civil servants who have been at the negotiating table have been forbidden from discussing matters of policy.
Truancy figures released
THE STRIKE takes place today following the publication of the latest truancy figures by the Department for Education.
They show that record numbers of parents were hit with fines last year after their children skipped lessons.
The figures show 52,370 of the £60 penalty notices were issued to parents and guardians for a child's unauthorised absence from school in 2012/13 - up 27 per cent from 41,224 in 2011/12.
It comes after the rules on allowing parents to take their child out of school during term time changed, removing head teachers discretion to approve term-time holidays.
Southampton city council leader Simon Letts described the education system as sending “mixed messages” to parents given today's strike action in the face of the new stricter rules on term-time absences.
He said: “Parents are yet again having to make alternative arrangements - I am one of them - to look after their children who are not at school. I would urge the government to get back around the table and negotiate to resolve the issues.”
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