ALMOST all of Scotland’s schools look set to close next week as teachers take part in their first nationwide strike for 25 years.
One union said it expected “99 per cent” of schools will be shut when teachers take industrial action on 30 November over pension changes.
The walkout is part of a UK-wide day of action which will see millions of public sector workers take part in the biggest strike for decades.
In Scotland, all the major teaching unions have now balloted members and will join the strike, leading many councils to announce that all schools will be closed for the day.
While many local authorities have yet to make a decision on whether to close their schools, some councils including Aberdeen, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Midlothian and North Lanarkshire announced the closure of all schools. Other councils had already planned to close for the day to mark St Andrews Day.
Private schools will also be affected. Their teachers belong to the pension scheme affected by changes, which it is claimed will see workers contributing more and working longer before they retire.
It will be the first time since 1986 that Scotland’s teachers have staged a national walkout. Ronnie Smith, general secretary of Scotland’s largest teaching union, The Educational Institute of Scotland, said: “Teachers have drawn a line in the sand and sent a clear message to government – we are prepared to take firm action to fight damaging changes to our pensions.
“At a time of imposed pay freezes on public sector pay, coupled with soaring prices for food, fuel, clothing and transport, teachers are not prepared to accept further erosion in their living standards.
“For hard-pressed teachers, the prospect of paying more of their salary into a pension scheme with the promise of working longer and getting far less at the end is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, added: “It is now virtually certain that 99 per cent or more of Scotland’s primary and secondary schools will be closed on 30 November. The result of all of the government’s thinking is that Scottish education will suffer and standards will deteriorate as our young people are increasingly taught by teachers whose enthusiasm has been drastically reduced on the basis that they expected to be retired years ago.”
While the matter is reserved to Westminster, the Scottish Government has said it must implement the changes to pensions or face losing £100 million a year it receives from the UK government.
Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: “It was pretty well expected that most of the schools would have to close, so parents are already putting in place plans for how they will manage that, either by relying on friends and family or by taking time off work.
“The feedback we’ve had from parents is not very supportive of strike action – they feel everyone is being squeezed at the moment. Parents would generally support their child’s teacher, but there’s a lack of support this time due to the amount of disruption it will cause them and their children”.
A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: “The health and safety of children is paramount and as we have no idea of knowing how many teachers and school staff will be in each establishment until the day of the strike, we have taken the decision to close all schools.”