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Lessons hit by teachers' pay strike

Tens of thousands of children are missing lessons as teachers stage a one-day strike over pay, pensions and conditions.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT are taking part in industrial action across the North West of England.

Around 2,765 schools in 22 authorities are affected by the walkout, the unions have claimed. The strike has been condemned by the Department for Education (DfE), which says it will disrupt pupils' education.

As part of the action, rallies are being held in Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Chester. In Liverpool, hundreds of teachers marched from Pier Head and packed into the city's St George's Hall as they joined together in protest. Boos echoed around the hall when the first speaker at the rally mentioned Education Secretary Michael Gove.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates told the rally: "Today we must send a strong message to Michael Gove. Today we must tell him that you have had enough of the myths, misinformation, distortions and downright lies he and coalition ministers peddle day in, day out about our education service and teachers."

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said that the union "seriously regrets" the disruption the strike will cause parents and pupils. But she added: "With the profession now under serious attack from the Government, we have to take a stand to protect education and teachers."

A DfE spokeswoman said: "We are very disappointed that the NUT and NASUWT have decided to take strike action, which less than a quarter of teachers actually voted for. Industrial action will disrupt pupils' education, hugely inconvenience parents and damage the profession's reputation in the eyes of the public at a time when our reforms are driving up standards across the country."

The walkout is the latest move in the NUT and NASUWT's campaign over changes to pay and pensions. The unions have announced a rolling programme of regional strikes over the next few months, affecting schools across England and Wales. The action is likely to be followed by a national walkout in the autumn.

Mr Gove wrote to both unions in March to say he was willing to meet them to discuss their dispute, but also insisting that the ''direction of travel'' on both of their key issues is ''fixed''. Under the Government's reforms, due to come into effect from this autumn, teachers' pay will be linked to performance in the classroom - with schools setting salaries, rather than following a national framework. Changes have also been made to public sector pensions.

Liverpool geography teacher Alex Ley, 58, said it was one of the most worrying times for teachers that he had ever known and that teachers were "disheartened".

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