The nationwide strike by public sector workers in Britain has left classrooms across the country virtually empty.
Hundreds of thousands of students have walked out of classes to support their teachers who are staging a one-day strike to protest against the government’s plans to change their pension plans.
According to BBC, at least 12,000 schools in the UK have completely or partially shut down (union officials claim the number is actually higher). In addition, 350 colleges and 75 universities have also been affected.
The Department for Education claimed that one-third of England's schools were completely closed, another third were partially closed and the remaining third were open.
Teachers and lecturers are believed to form the largest percentage of public sector employees striking across Britain. In addition to schools, airports seaports and many other public services have seen reduced activity.
Members of the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the University and College union are outraged by the pension reform because it will mean they will have to work longer, make more contributions to the pension, and receive less money upon retirement.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said he was disappointed by the strike action, which he deemed unnecessary since talks between the government and unions are ongoing.
“We're still in negotiations and the people who really lose out as a result of today's strike are children who are not in school enjoying their lessons,” Gove said.
Gove also told reporters: I feel disappointed that people have chosen to go out on strike today. I understand that there are really strong feelings about pensions and we absolutely want to ensure that everyone in the public, especially teachers, have decent pensions.”
However, Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, defended the strike.
Today's action across the country demonstrates the anger and distress that this government is causing teachers,” she said in a statement.
“Their unjustified attacks on teachers' pensions are nothing short of disgraceful. Teachers are dedicated to the children and young people whom they teach. They are professionals and do not take strike action lightly. But they cannot stand back and see their pensions attacked when all the evidence shows that they are affordable and sustainable and that their costs are falling.