Thousands of schools closed as teachers strike over funding
Thousands of schools were closed today as teachers staged a strike over funding, with further industrial action not ruled out.
Members of the National Union of Teachers across England took part in rallies and marches, including a huge gathering outside the Houses of Parliament, to attack Government policy.
The union said its members had shown strong support for the strike, which it added was being backed by many parents.
"Most schools where action is being taken are affected by closures or reduced subjects," said an NUT spokesman.
The NUT claims funding to schools is being cut, leading to increased workloads for teachers and bigger class sizes.
Acting general secretary Kevin Courtney said: "T his has been a very well supported strike both by NUT members and the general public. We thank all those parents who have supported us despite the inconvenience it may have caused. This strike should not have been necessary.
"The NUT will keep campaigning to ensure that the education our children receive is not compromised through school budget cuts. We must invest in our education. Government needs to start listening."
Schools minister Nick Gibb told the Commons: "The industrial action by the NUT is pointless but it is far from inconsequential - it disrupts children's education, it inconveniences parents and it damages the profession's reputation in the eyes of the public.
"But because of the dedication of the vast majority of teachers and head teachers, our analysis shows that seven out of eight schools are refusing to close.
"Our school workforce is, and must remain, a respected profession suitable for the 21st century, but this action is seeking to take the profession back, in public perception, to the tired and dated disputes of the 20th century."
The Government says the schools budget is the highest it has ever been this year at £40 billion, and has gone up £4 billion since 2011-12.
But the NUT says that in real terms the budget for classrooms has gone down, leading to bigger class sizes and increased workloads for teachers.
The Department for Education pointed out that only 24% of NUT members took part in a ballot on strike action, adding that the Secretary of State wrote to the union before today's action, saying it was "disingenuous" t o suggest school funding was not being prioritised.
The Education Department said that out of the 21,957 publicly funded schools in England, 52.7% are open, 17.4% partially open, 10.2% are closed and the status of 19.7% is unknown.
David Cameron's official spokeswoman said the Prime Minister was "disappointed by the action that has been taken today and believes that the strike action is damaging and unnecessary and that it would be better to be sitting round a table and finding a way through dialogue".