Schools closed as Durham teaching assistants take two-day strike action

Nearly 100 primary schools across County Durham will be affected tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday as teaching assistants strike in a long-running dispute over cuts to their pay.

School support staff plan to protest at dozens of picket lines across the county over the two days. This will mean the closure of some schools completely, says their union UNISON.

On Wednesday morning the teaching assistants plan to lobby a meeting of the county council.

The strike action follows a ballot over Durham County Council plans to move teaching assistants to term-time pay. This could see school support staff lose up to 23% of their wages.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The way these teaching assistants have been treated is nothing short of disgraceful. The number of schools closing as a result shows how strongly staff feel. They regret any disruption to parents but feel they have no other option.

“But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s not too late for Durham to see the error of its ways, make a decent offer to our teaching assistants, and show it appreciates their immense contribution to schools, parents and communities.”

UNISON northern regional secretary Clare Williams said: “It’s frustrating that the council has allowed the dispute to escalate to this level. The county council should have found a way to protect vital school salaries, instead of cutting the wages of some of its lowest paid workers.”

Notes to editors:
– Ninety-eight schools will be either closed or partially closed during the two-day dispute. Clare Williams will showing her support for teaching assistants by attending picket lines tomorrow (Tuesday) from 7.30am at All Saints’ Primary School and Lanchester EP, both in Lanchester.
– A lobby of the county council takes place at 9am on Wednesday (9 November), followed by a rally at noon at Durham Miners’ Association in Redhills where Dave Prentis will be speaking.
– UNISON balloted 1,755 teaching assistants. For legal reasons, the union had to conduct two separate ballots – one for employees in faith schools and another for those directly employed by the council. Ninety-three per cent of county council employees who voted backed strike action. The figure was the same for those working in faith schools.
– Councillors voted in May to dismiss the classroom assistants and re-employ them on term-time contracts.
– UNISON has set up a national fund, to be administered by its northern region, so that none of the striking teaching assistants suffer unnecessary financial hardship.

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