Durham Schools to Close Due to Teaching Assistant Strikes

Durham Schools to Close Due to Teaching Assistant Strikes
Durham schools will close due to teaching assistants’ strikes

Schools across County Durham are to be hit by industrial action staged by teaching assistants. On 8th and 9th November, teaching asisstants belonging to Unison and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) will strike.

While most of the schools affected will be completely closed on both days, in certain schools some classes will be open. A full list of affected schools can be found here.

Over forty schools will be affected by the strikes, including Durham Trinity School and Sports College, and Newton Hall Infant School.

The dispute centres on changes that Durham County Council wishes to make to teaching assistants’ contracts. The council wants to pay its TAs only for the hours they work in term time and not for holiday periods. The TAs claim this could lead to them losing up to 23% of their pay packets, or £5,000 a year. Unison general secretary, Dave Prentis, said,

“No one should ever have to face a salary cut of almost a quarter. These staff have been treated appallingly. Teaching assistants will be showing just how strongly they feel about this next week and they will have their union and community standing beside them.”

Unison northern secretary, Claire Williams, said, “No one wants to see schools closed and teaching assistants on picket lines, but until Durham Council drops its plans to slash their salaries that’s inevitable. The council needs to think again.”

Unison Durham branch secretary, Neville Handcock, added,

“It’s time for the council to change its plan and abandon these horrendous pay cuts.”

In a ballot in October, Unison members voted to strike by 93%. The ATL have also voted to strike and will coordinate their industrial action with Unison. The GMB, which also represents some TAs, has voted to accept a compromise from the council in which the contract changes are delayed by two years.

Unison plans to lobby Durham County Hall at 9 am on Wednesday 9th November. Later that day, Dave Prentis will speak at a rally at the Miners’ Association, Redhills, at noon.

Durham County Council argues that the contract changes are necesary to prevent expensive equal pay claims by other workers, who are already paid simply for the hours they work.

John Hewitt, the council’s corporate director of resources, said,

“This is really about an equal pay and fairness issue. We’ve got specific legal advice that tells us that we need to address the situation to avoid an equal pay risk occurring. so the council does need to put in place contracts that reflect the actual hours worked.”

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