A PRINCIPAL decided against striking as closing her school would have sent the “wrong message” to pupils.

Both Fairfield and St Mary’s high schools partially closed yesterday (Wednesday) as a result of industrial action by the National Union of Teachers, and at least four primary schools fully closed.

However the Aconbury Centre – one of the county’s three referral units for pupils with medical, emotional or behavioural difficulties – stayed open.

Its head, and NUT member, Maria Dixon, took the personal decision not to strike as it would have meant closing the centre.

She said: “I was the person that could strike – but because we are a pupil referral unit many of our students have missed a lot of education.

“If I leave then the school closes, that would be the wrong message.”

The situation was different in September, when both major teaching unions, NUT and NASUWT, both went on strike; Aconbury closed for the day.

“It sent a stronger message,” said Ms Dixon.

Yesterday was the eighth time teachers have gone out since Michael Gove took over as education secretary – and the NUT says its message remains clear.

“The work levels are intolerable,” said NUT general secretary Christine Blowers. “Two in five teachers are leaving the profession in the first five years of teaching.

“This is bad for children and bad for education.”

Data released last month showed primary school teachers work on average more than 59 hours a week, up nine hours from 2010, while secondary school teachers trail just behind at 55.7 hours.

The average working week in the UK in 2013 was 40.1 hours.

While many schools managed to remain fully open during Wednesday’s strike, for small schools like Longtown Primary any action inevitably means closure.

Meanwhile, Fairfield head Sue Gaston added: “We would prefer not to have to be closed – I think parents understand it’s out of our control.”

With over half its teaching staff on strike – and rules prohibiting teachers from other unions covering their classes – the Peterchurch school was only able to accommodate year 11 students, set to sit GCSEs in the next couple of months.

There was no day-off for Fairfield’s pupils however – work was provided for all students on the school’s website.