THOUSANDS of Harrogate pupils were unable to attend school yesterday after teaching unions took industrial action over pensions.
All five state secondary schools in the town were affected by the strike, leaving many parents to make alternative arrangements for childcare.
The national strike over pensions went ahead despite calls from politicians and parents for both sides to return to negotiations.
Anne Swift, representing the North Yorkshire branch of the Nation Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “We realise how inconvenient it is and it obviously does disrupt, but in a sense that’s what action is about.
“To have such a strong sense of feeling on this issue ought to make the Government think again.”
In Harrogate, the five state secondary schools remained open, with some pupils told to stay at home because there were not enough staff to teach them. Years 11 and 13 have already finished timetabled lessons for GCSE and A-level exams, but schools had to make arrangements for the rest of the students.
St Aidan’s and St John Fisher schools remained open to Year 7 and 8 pupils and Year 12 students were invited to go in for private study, while Harrogate High’s Years 7, 8 and 12 were in lessons.
At Harrogate Grammar School, Year 7 pupils and sixth formers were the only groups in school. Rossett School, meanwhile, was open to all pupils except those transferring from Year 7 to Year 8 this summer.
Among the primary schools affected were Hookstone Chase, Oatlands Infant and Woodfield, which were all closed, and Oatlands Junior School, where one class was off for the day.
The strike has been organised nationally by the NUT and three other unions – the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the University and College Union (UCU) and the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union – over changes to pension arrangements, which they say will leave them working longer, paying more into their pensions and getting less back.
Larger unions did not strike yesterday because they had not carried out a full ballot, but Harrogate’s Unison branch secretary David Houlgate said unless the situation was resolved, it was likely further action would be taken in the autumn.
l See letters, Page 6.