Schools in Suffolk are bracing for strike action by 4,000 teachers in the county, who are set to join national walkouts in early February and mid-March.

Letters have been sent to parents detailing contingency measures that are being put in place with the teachers set to strike on February 1 and March 15 and 16 in a dispute over pay.

Rick Hanson, acting principal at Chantry Academy in Ipswich, said his school intended to be open for years seven to 11 during the strikes.

Bury Mercury: Rick Hanson, acting principal at Chantry Academy, said he intends to keep his school open on strike daysRick Hanson, acting principal at Chantry Academy, said he intends to keep his school open on strike days (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown)

He added the impact would vary from school to school and would depend on how many staff were in unions participating in the industrial action, while schools could not always easily predict who would be joining the walkouts until the day of the action.

Possible options for schools could include having a ‘partial opening’ of the school to teach three year groups, instead of five, while agency staff could be used to cover some lessons.

Another alternative was to use High Level Teaching Assistants (HLTA) to cover lessons, who are teaching assistants that have completed extra training and are able to take on extra responsibilities, such as leading lessons.

Mr Hanson said: “We have had a meeting with our trust provider and they are looking at schools on a case-by-case basis and I think that schools are going to operate as normal where possible and we are going to send letters to parents about what contingency plans we have put in place.”

Bury Mercury: Philip Hurst, headteacher at Thomas Mills High SchoolPhilip Hurst, headteacher at Thomas Mills High School (Image: Thomas Mills High School)

Philip Hurst, headteacher at Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham, said under 30 members of staff at his school were members of the National Education Union (NEU), one of the unions taking part in the strike action.

However, teachers were under no obligation to say if they would be taking part, he added, while he intended to keep the school running on strike days.

“In this situation, I can’t take a particular opinion, but I very much hope that both sides are able to reach an agreement.

“My considerations will need to be on health and safety, staff deployment, delivering the curriculum, contingency planning and so on,” Mr Hurst said.

Bury Mercury: Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham intends to stay open during the strikesThomas Mills High School in Framlingham intends to stay open during the strikes (Image: Google Maps)

Work routines could return to those used during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, including greater use of remote working and the partial opening of the school for certain year groups and the children of key workers.

Staff at County High School in Bury St Edmunds have also written to pupils’ parents advising them that some teachers were members of the NEU and therefore the school may be affected by the strike action.

The letter said: “We are considering guidance that the Department for Education has published and will write to you again at the beginning of next week if the school will not be open on any of these days.

"At this stage, we felt it important that you are aware of these dates.”

Bury Mercury: Graham White from the NEUGraham White from the NEU (Image: Andy Abbott)

Graham White, from the NEU in Suffolk, said 90% of teachers had voted to strike on a 46% turnout and the numbers taking part represented more than 50% of the total number of teachers in Suffolk.

He said members wanted a 10% pay increase and were striking to recoup the pay they had lost over the years due to Government underfunding.

He added: “We will regret taking this action. It is not an action we want to take. Teachers will lose money.”

He said although the strikes would "damage children’s education", the main damage had been done by the underfunding of education over the last 12 years.

“It is the long-term issue that we are looking at. If we want to attract people into the profession then we have to pay them properly.

“We only have 17% of the Physics teachers we need. It is a similar situation with foreign languages, DT and computing.

“We need to attract graduates into the profession and keep them there and we are not going to keep them there with the level of pay and the workload we have now,” Mr White added.