SCHOOLS in Bolton could be forced to shut or partially close next month as teachers stage a mass walkout.

The National Union of Teachers, which has about 1,646 members in Bolton, has announced another national strike on March 26 as it accused education secretary Michael Gove of refusing to hold meaningful talks.

Teachers are protesting over the introduction of performance-related pay, changes to their pensions that will see them contributing more and working longer, and reforms which will mean longer working hours.

Council bosses said they do not yet know which schools will be affected — but that parents will be kept informed.

Secretary of the Bolton branch of the NUT, Julia Simpkins said: “Strike action was called off in November because Michael Gove said he would hold meaningful discussions with us.

“But there have been no meaningful talks, nothing has changed.”

Teachers at the more than 120 schools in Bolton became the first in the country to strike in protest over pay, pensions and conditions last June as part of a rolling programme of regional strikes.

Ms Simpkins said: “It is upsetting that we are having to take this action, particularly at this time of year, we have done it in March so it is not too close to children’s exams — but it is coming up to exam time.

“Teachers will also lose a day’s pay — but this is about students, we are fighting for them.

“Teachers are spending time on paperwork, which has no impact on teaching, it’s data collecting exercise, and that time could be spent on teaching students.

“People are not coming into the profession and there is a high turnover of people leaving.

“Teachers are off ill with stress — in primary schools there are not enough supply teachers in the region to cover those teachers who are ill.”

The NASUWT — National Association of Schoolmasters Union and Women Teachers — will decide on Friday whether to call a strike.

The two unions, NASUWT and NUT, which represent 90 per cent of the teachers in Bolton, took joint strike action last summer Ms Simpkins said: “Last time the action led to the majority of schools being closed and we expect there to be school closures or partial closures as a result of this action.”

A Bolton Council spokesman added:”We are aware of the potential for industrial action within schools on March 26, however at this time we do not have any further information about what action is being taken, nor which schools this may affect.

“As information becomes available we will ensure this is communicated and will as always work with schools and parents to seek to minimise any disruption.”

“We would advise parents to contact their child’s school for further information about the strike, closer to the time.

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."