TEACHERS are striking today ‘for the sake of the children’.

The claim comes from a teacher and union member who has defended the industrial action by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) which is set to cause disruption across Dorset.

Government moves to rewrite teachers’ working conditions has sparked a row with the union over pay and pensions that has gone on for more than two years. But primary school teacher Donna Beddows said policies driven by Education Secretary Michael Gove were at the heart of the protest and that union colleagues had been forced into action, losing a day’s pay to ‘fight for a better education system’.

Not all schools are affected. Dorset County Council is encouraging schools that will be hit to stay open if they can. Parents are being contacted directly if there is a partial closure of their child’s school.

Miss Beddows, from Bridport, a member of the NUT on the Dorset Division Committee, said: “I realise that teachers being on strike is an inconvenience; however, the government’s refusal to engage with unions led to this.

“We didn’t take the decision to strike lightly. We are doing so because we want what’s best for the children.

“We believe current education policies aren’t for the best such as schools no longer being required to employ qualified teachers, a new curriculum being rushed through, introducing unnecessary new tests for five and 11-year-olds, and allowing schools to set their own term dates, which could differ between schools, causing chaos for families.”

Miss Beddows added that workloads and hours were increasing and there was an ‘unrealistic’ demand for teachers to work to the age of 68.

She added: “Some might consider that we work short days and have ‘all them school holidays’, but in reality an average day for me is 7.30am to 6pm. We take work home, and catch up on work in school holidays.

“We often work 60-plus hour weeks.

“Plus, contrary to misunderstanding, we aren’t paid for school holidays as salary is based on the number of days we are in school teaching.”

• OF THE area’s main senior schools, All Saints School in Weymouth and IPACA (Portland) remain unaffected by strike action and students should attend as normal.

Budmouth College and the Wey Valley School will be closed for students in Years Seven to 10 while students from Years Nine to 11 should not attend Thomas Hardye School. Bridport’s Colfox School will be closed to students in Years Nine and 10. Weymouth College and Kingston Maurward College are not affected. For a full list visit dorsetecho.co.uk.

• Advice to schools

DORSET County Council is urging schools to stay open, where possible, during the National Union of Teachers’ industrial action.

Schools should be informing parents directly if it is decided to close or partially close.

School transport should run as normal where schools are open, and with modified services in areas affected by a school closure.

Lead advisor for school improvement with the county council, Mark Loveys, said: “We are encouraging schools to stay open, where it is feasible and poses no risk to pupils as a result.

“However, the final decision as to whether a school remains open, closed or partially closed lies with the headteacher and the chairman of governors.

“All schools have been asked to give as much notice as possible.”