UK & World News
Teacher Strike Disrupts Thousands Of Schools
Thousands of state schools have been closed or partially closed by a one-day strike involving members of the National Union of Teachers.
Schools are being disrupted across England and Wales as the NUT launches its first national strike in almost three years.
NUT members joined rallies and marches across the country as union leaders said strike action was well supported.
But the Department of Education said fewer than a quarter of schools are fully closed, considerably less than the 60% closure rate seen during nationwide strikes in 2011.
The figures do not include schools which have been partially closed.
The walkout is the latest in a series of strikes in an ongoing row over pensions, performance-related pay and workloads.
NUT Deputy General Secretary Kevin Courtney told Sky News: "The reason that we are on strike today, which we very much regret, is that (Secretary of State for Education) Michael Gove simply won't listen.
"We think Michael Gove's policies are exhausting and demoralising teachers, and children deserve enthusiastic and energetic teachers."
He said: "Thousands of good teachers are leaving the profession. That is very damaging to education."
The NUT is the only union taking part in Wednesday's strike.
The NASUWT union, which has been involved in previous stoppages, has been encouraged by ongoing talks over the disputed issues.
However, Mr Courtney said neither Mr Gove nor schools minister David Laws had personally attended the negotiations so far.
When Sky News put the allegations to Mr Laws, he said claims the Government was not listening to teachers' concerns were "nonsense".
He said he had no heard no previous complaints from the NUT over the way talks were structured, saying they were "detailed and serious," and attended by some of the most senior members in the department of education.
He added: "It is bizarre and ridiculous to be taking industrial action and disturbing the education of young people and the work patterns of parents when there are talks under way."
However, he did not refute claims he had been absent from meetings.
Ahead of the strike, the Department for Education said: "Parents will struggle to understand why the NUT is pressing ahead with strikes over the Government's measures to let heads pay good teachers more.
"They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and talks have been taking place weekly.
"Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is taking action that will disrupt parents' lives, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession."
The Government maintains that less than a quarter of teachers voted for strike action. But NUT officials say the Government's own figures back up their argument.
Coventry physics teacher and NUT official Chris Denson said: "Since this Government has come to power we have seen a continual deterioration of teachers' working conditions.
"You see the Department For Education's own survey shows that working time has gone up massively in secondary and primary schools.
"But also, since this Government has come to power, a teacher's take-home pay has come down by 17%. Our pensions, we have to pay more to get less at the end and have to work until 69. So there are a huge number of issues."
A recent survey suggested primary school teachers work nearly 60 hours a week, with secondary school teachers chalking up 56 hours.