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27 June 2013, 11:29
Thousands of teachers across Greater Manchester are staging a one-day walkout in the first of a new wave of strikes over pay, pensions and conditions
Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT are taking part in industrial action.
Around 2,765 schools in 22 authorities will be affected, the unions claim, and rallies are due to be held in Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Chester.
The action has been condemned by the Department for Education (DfE), which says it will disrupt pupils' education.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower said that the union ''seriously regrets'' the disruption the strike will cause parents and pupils but added: "With the profession now under serious attack from the Government, we have to take a stand to protect education and teachers. The North West will be taking the lead in sending a message to Education Secretary Michael Gove that teachers are not prepared to accept government attacks on our pay, pensions and conditions.
"Not content with wanting teachers to get less pay and retire later, Michael Gove now wants to go ahead with 'liberalising' teachers' working conditions such as the length of working days and hours and our entitlements on non-contact time and cover.''
Ms Blower insisted that the two unions were asking the Government to enter "meaningful talks'' about the dispute, and that responsibility for the strike lay with Mr Gove for failing to engage with them.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said that teachers were ``standing up for standards''.
"Over the last three years, the Coalition Government has mounted savage attacks on teachers' pay, pension and conditions of service,'' she said.
"To justify these attacks and education reforms, the Secretary of State has sought to denigrate teachers and present our public education system as broken. As a result the teaching profession is now in crisis.''
A poll of 14,000 teachers, published by the NASUWT, found that teachers are increasingly unhappy with their jobs - and many are considering leaving the profession.
It suggests that Government reforms to pay and pensions, as well as a heavy workload and school inspections, are to blame for dissatisfaction among the workforce.
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 numbers of top graduates and professions going into teaching has risen and vacancy rates are at their lowest level since 2005, she said.
"It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are opposing measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more. We have met frequently with the NUT and NASUWT to discuss their concerns and will continue to do so.''
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.
The authorities affected by the action, according to the two unions, are: Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Bolton, Bury, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton, Knowsley, Lancashire, Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Sefton, St Helens, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Warrington and District, Wigan and Wirral.