MORE than 20,000 West Cheshire pupils will not be at school today due to national strike action taken by teachers over pensions and working conditions.

Forty two schools have notified Cheshire West and Chester Council that they will close completely. A further 35 will be partially closed and 72 will remain open.

Union leaders are threatening the biggest wave of industrial action since the general strike of 1926, after the Government unveiled proposals for employees to work longer and pay more for less generous entitlements in retirement.

Among the unions taking part are the National Union of Teachers.

Also striking are the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the University and College Union, affecting West Cheshire College and the University of Chester.

Public and Commercial Services Union members are also walking out. Its members staff Government offices such Jobcentres and benefits offices.

The West Cheshire Trades Council (WCTC), which was formed last year in response to the Government’s programme of cuts, is staging a rally outside Chester Town Hall at 12.30pm which will be addressed by union speakers.

Greg Foster, of Cheshire West NUT, said: “New entrants are going to have to work until they are 68.”

Councillor Mark Stocks, executive member, education and children, said: “The council requested its head teachers to keep their schools open if at all possible, but not if it constituted a risk to either pupils or members of staff.

“More than 60 schools will be operating normally, some by virtue of considerable staff rearrangements, and parents will be grateful that they have not been involved in having to stay off work or make alternative arrangements for their children.”