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Should teachers vote for industrial action?

PUPILS in Wearside schools could face fresh disruption as teachers gear up for possible strike action.

The NASUWT, the country’s biggest teaching union, is to ballot members in England and Wales on industrial action over pensions, pay, working conditions and jobs.

Half the teaching staff in Sunderland are members of the NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers) and the union’s Wearside official said any industrial action would have a significant effect on city schools.

Mike Johnson, Sunderland federation secretary of the union, said: “I think teachers are disgusted with the one-sidedness of this Government. We had David Cameron saying ‘we are all in this together’ but, that’s not the case, it is working people who are bearing the brunt of the cuts.

“I think the ballot will get strong support from members in Sunderland, but it will be up to the membership.”

Mike said any vote for industrial action would not be taken lightly by members because they don’t want to disrupt the lives of the children and parents they work to support.

But he said as well as anger over planned pension reforms, the union also wants to tackle other issues. These include redundancies, new teachers leaving university unable to get jobs and the amount of academies being opened, which it is against because it says they take education out of democratic control and into the hands of individuals.

The NASUWT will hold consultations with branches across the country throughout this month about the ballot and it is thought members will be asked to vote for a programme of industrial action short of strike and for strike action.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said teachers are buckling under the weight of excessive workloads.

She said: “Their ability to focus on teaching and learning is being seriously compromised as the coalition government rides roughshod over guidance, regulations and contractual provisions which were introduced to support teachers to work effectively to raise standards.”

However, the Government insists the changes it is making are about improving education.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Industrial action could harm pupils’ learning, inconvenience parents and damage teachers’ professional reputation. We urge the NASUWT leadership to step back from this course.”

* A winter of strike action by more than a million public sector workers was set to move a step closer today.

The walkouts would be in protest at planned changes to pensions. An announcement of co-ordinated action was likely to be made following a debate at the TUC Congress in London.