Gove warns teachers over strikes
Education Secretary Michael Gove has warned teachers that they risk damaging their professional reputations with this week's planned walkout.
Amid increasingly acrimonious exchanges between the Government and the unions, he angered teaching leaders further by suggesting that parents could be drafted in to help keep classrooms open on Thursday.
Up to 750,000 teachers, lecturers and other public sector workers are to strike over changes to their pensions, bringing chaos to millions of parents with school-age children.
Mr Gove said the Government was doing everything possible to keep schools open despite the "militancy" of the unions. He told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "If schools aren't open on Thursday there will be massive inconvenience for working parents, in particular single parents, who will have to rearrange childcare at very short notice.
"I think it is wrong for people who are working hard to have their lives disrupted in this way, so I think it is right that schools stay open. Maybe they won't be offering the traditional menu but I think they should be open so the children are doing something purposeful and people aren't inconvenienced."
He added: "I do worry that taking industrial action, being on the picket line, being involved in this sort of militancy will actually mean that the respect in which teachers should be held is taken back a little bit and I think that will be a shame for all of us who want a better education system."
But Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, claimed good teachers would no longer find it "worth their while" to be in the profession if the pension proposals went ahead.
She said told Sky News: "I know that taking industrial action will cause disruption to parents, but I would say this to them: if the Government gets away with doing a Robert Maxwell on our pensions, which is what it's trying to do, there will be no honourable teaching profession. Good teachers won't want to go into the profession because it won't be worth their while to do so."
Dr Bousted attacked Mr Gove's proposal for a "mum's army" to help keep schools open. She said: "I think the Secretary of State should understand that the first responsibility of headteachers is for the health and safety of their pupils.
"The idea that you can have untrained people in baby-minding large numbers of children, with all the potential that has for accidents, for chaos, for poor behaviour, I think that is a nonsense."