Talks unlikely to shift teachers

By Alex Stevenson

Teaching union leaders have hit back after Michael Gove suggested the planned walkout over their pensions would hit their international reputation.

The education secretary warned the one-day strike taking place this Thursday would be a "retrograde step" for the profession.

"I do worry that taking industrial action, being on the picket line, will actually mean the respect in which teachers should be held is taken back a little bit," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr programme.

"That will be a shame for all of us who want a better education system."

Hundreds of schools are expected to close across England and Wales, with thousands more facing disruption, as the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) take industrial action over increases to teachers' pension contributions.

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said it was the steps taken by the coalition government which would undermine the teaching profession, however.

"Good teachers won't want to go into the profession because it won't be worth their while to do so," she said yesterday.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower warned that ministers were set to "irreparably damage education in this country" if the planned changes went ahead.

Negotiations will resume today. But union figures have previously dismissed the talks as a "sham" and are not prepared to compromise.

They object to having to work until they are 66 before receiving their pension, in line with the rise in the state pension age, as well as paying more into their pension contributions.

Teachers are also hoping that the indexing of pensions, which switched from retail price index inflation to consumer price index inflation this April, will be reversed.

"What we are looking for is some sign that the government is prepared to move on the three central issues – paying more, working longer and getting less," NUT deputy general secretary told the BBC.

The Public and Commercial Services union is also striking on Thursday, taking the total number of public sector workers poised to walk out to 750,000.