Schools closed and services disrupted as public sector strikes bite in East Cambs

11:18 10 July 2014

Archant

Hundreds of public sector workers have walked out across East Cambridgeshire today as the dispute between the Government and unions rumbles on.

Teachers have joined firefighters and council staff on the picket lines in one of the biggest days of disruption seen in East Cambridgeshire for many years.

Dozens of schools are closed and the public is being urged to take care as firefighters walk out for the 15th time since their dispute with the Government began.

Primary and infant schools including Downham Feoffees and Spring Meadow have been affected by the strikes but many remain open, including St Mary’s, The Lantern, and St John’s in Ely.

At Witchford Village College, the number of staff on strike left principal Chris Terry with no other option but to close the Manor Road school to all students.

In a letter to parents, he said: “I have had to consider the ability of the college to operate safely on the day with a potentially reduced staffing level. “As a result the college is unable to avoid this closure due to the fact that a significant proportion of teaching and support staff will be taking industrial action on the day.

“Therefore, the college will be closed to all students as there will be insufficient staff on duty to supervise classes effectively and safely.”

At Ely College, staff are trying to run lessons as normal for Years 7, 8 and 9 – with private study taking place where teachers are unavailable.

Year 10 is currently on work experience and Years 11 and 13 have finished their schooling. The Year 12 sixth form students are also attending lessons.

Catherine Jenkinson-Dix said: “I apologise for the need to change our normal arrangements and for any inconvenience caused to you by this industrial action.”

At Soham Village College, the school opened only for Year 10 students, with Years 7, 8 and 9 told not to attend.

Principal, Dr Carin Taylor, said: “The school will be open to Year 10 students. Although there will be some disruption to normal lessons, we believe that the majority of classes will be taught as usual.”

A number of staff at East Cambridgeshire District Council have also joined the strike action but only minor delays to services were expected at The Grange.

Liam McKeating, of union UNISON, said: “Many of our members are low paid women earning barely above the minimum wage, who care for our children, our elderly and our vulnerable and they deserve better treatment than they have had at the hands of this Government.”

Members of the Cambridgeshire branch of the Fire Brigades Union are also out on strike in a dispute over changes to pensions and working conditions.

Cambridgeshire firefighters will be on strike from 10am-7pm, thought Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service says that “plans are in place” to cover emergency calls during the industrial action.

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