WIRRAL teachers are to join colleagues across the country in staging a fresh national strike in the long-running row over pay, pensions and conditions.
Members of the National Union of Teachers in England and Wales will walk out on March 26 after accusing Education Secretary Michael Gove of "persistent refusals" to address their complaints.
The union has held a series of strikes since first balloting its members almost three years ago, but more recently called off industrial action as talks were held.
General secretary Christine Blower said: " Michael Gove's persistent refusals to address our ongoing dispute over pay, pensions and conditions of service, is unnecessary and deeply damaging.
"As a result, thousands of good, experienced teachers are leaving or considering leaving the job and a teacher shortage crisis is looming with two in five teachers leaving the profession in their first five years.
"The NUT and NASUWT met with government officials in October - now over 17 weeks ago. Reassurances were given that Michael Gove would talk about a wide range of matters on implementation of pay and pensions and the direction of travel and implementation on conditions.
"Subsequently, the Education Secretary has put obstacle after obstacle in the way of talks, showing no serious attempt to resolve - or even to discuss - the matters in dispute.
"We on the other hand have made every effort. We cancelled the strike planned for November and postponed action in February. We have indicated we will meet with Michael Gove anywhere, any time to seek to resolve the disputes in the interest of the education service.
"Strike action is always a last resort for teachers and we deeply regret the fact that we have been put in a position whereby we have no alternative. "
Ms Blower said responsibility for the dispute lies "fairly and squarely" at the door of the "intransigent" Education Secretary, adding: "His policies are losing the coalition parties votes. It is time he changed his attitude and listened to the genuine concerns of teachers."
Leaders of the NASUWT teachers' union will meet on February 14 to consider calling industrial action.
The union has today written to Mr Gove asking for "discreet meetings" to be called to try to end the deadlocked row.
General secretary Chris Keates said: " The Secretary of State must understand that the teaching profession is on the verge of a crisis. The relentless attack on every aspect of teachers' working lives is taking its toll.
"NASUWT members have been engaged in industrial action since November 2011.
"It was deeply disappointing to teachers that, having agreed in October 2013 to a programme of talks with the NASUWT and NUT, the Secretary of State did not take the opportunity to progress this, despite planned strike action for November 2013 being called off to allow progress to be made.
"The only way to resolve a dispute is for the parties directly involved to sit down to have serious discussions on the issues of concern."
Teachers have been involved in a series of strikes since the coalition came to office, joining the national public sector walkout over pensions in November 2011 following a previous strike over pensions in June 2011.
The NUT conducted two separate ballots, one on pensions in May 2011 and another on pay and conditions in June 2012, which both apply to the forthcoming strike in March.
Regional strikes have been held, sometimes in conjunction with the NASUWT, and both unions have carried out joint action short of strike action on shared issues since October 2012.
Ms Blower said morale among teachers had "plummeted", adding that their average pay had fallen by 15% since the coalition was formed because of higher pension contributions and pay freezes or below inflation increases.
There has also been an increase in workload, with teachers working up to 60 hours a week, she said.
She told the Press Association: "Teachers have always worked long hours, and many have worked over their weekend, but what we are hearing is that so much of what they are now required to do is for accountability - box ticking, form filling and bureaucracy.
"The secretary of state has failed to meet us to engage in talks."
Along with other public sector workers such as firefighters, teachers faced working until their late 60s, the NUT said.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Parents will struggle to understand why the NUT is pressing ahead with strikes over the Government's measures to let heads pay good teachers more.
"They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and those talks will begin shortly.
"Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is nevertheless taking strike action that will disrupt parents' lives, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession."