Twin boys caught up in Sheffield school strike divide

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Striking teachers meant double trouble for working mum Rosie Smith – whose identical five-year-old twins are in different classes at the same Sheffield school.

Reuben was told to attend Ecclesfield Primary as usual yesterday, because his teacher would be working normally.

Twins Reuben and Louie

Twins Reuben and Louie

But brother Louie was told to stay away as the teacher in charge of his class was taking industrial action.

It is the second time this year that the NUT’s battle over pay and pensions has landed 29-year-old Rosie with an unusual headache.

She said: “When the first strike took place last September, I decided to keep both of them off, as they’d only just started school then.

“That caused a problem of its own though – Louie was given a top award because he had a 100 per cent attendance record at the end of the half term.

“But because Reuben was marked as having missed a day at school, he only got a bronze award and he wasn’t too happy,” Rosie said at the family home in Wordsworth Avenue.

Rosie, who works as a doctor’s receptionist, decided herself she wanted her two boys to be in separate classes.

“They were both quite insular and it was also quite difficult for the teachers and other children to tell them apart,” she said.

“I also thought if they were in different classes it would be easier for them to make new friends.”

Rosie’s childcare problem was solved by her sister-in-law, who took in Louie for the morning.

She said she did not blame the school for the situation – and supported the right of Louie’s teacher to go on strike.

“To be honest I’m not overly for or against the strike, it’s just causing me a few problems with childcare and it will if there’s another strike again,” Rosie said. “It’s also caused a problem as I can’t really give Louie a ‘treat’ day – it wouldn’t be fair as Reuben has to be at school and he’d be upset.

“Really I’d either like them both at school or both at home – I can’t treat them equally otherwise.

“It’s just never a problem I anticipated when I decided to split them up last September, but I haven’t changed my mind about it.”

Sheffield schools on strike

Thousands of Sheffield pupils were forced to miss classes as members of the National Union of Teachers took part in national strike action.

Sixteen city schools closed completely, but few were left unaffected by the walk out.

Teachers are involved in a bitter struggle with ministers over changes to pensions, pay and working conditions which has dragged on for over two years.

Yesterday’s strike was the first national stoppage following a regional walk out covering South Yorkshire since last September which shut almost 50 Sheffield schools.

The latest industrial action was called by the NUT without backing this time from rival union, the NASUWT.

The NAS decided to hold back after negotiations with ministers resumed, but it will reconsider its position after the Easter break.

NUT members gathered for a march from Devonshire Green to a rally in Barker’s Pool in Sheffield city centre.

Joint Sheffield NUT secretary Toby Mallinson said: “We are experiencing high levels of teacher turnover in far too many Sheffield schools.

“This is caused by the remorseless increase in pressure and workload on teachers. This strike is part of a critical debate in our country over the direction of education policy.

“We believe the Government’s thinking is fundamentally flawed and is threatening many of the gains that have been made over past decades.”

David Laws, schools minister, said that there was no basis for the strike.

He said: “I do not understand why the NUT are taking this industrial action in the middle of talks.”

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