MORE than a thousand fed-up teachers across Dorset and Hampshire struck, marched or joined picket lines in a national walkout in protest against proposed changes to pensions yesterday.

Elated union leaders called the response from Dorset’s 3,300 teachers “unprecedented,” and estimated that more than half had joined in the industrial action.

As a result thousands of schoolchildren had the day off as more than 150 schools in the conurbation and the New Forest were forced to close or partially close.

Scores of staff from Bournemouth University, members of the University and College Union (UCU), waved placards emblazoned with logos, including “Fair Pensions For All” and “Save Our Pensions” as they picketed the entrances to the institution’s main campus, as well as buildings in Lansdowne.

And more than 500 teachers, many with their children, took to the streets as they marched through Dorchester carrying banners and flags, handing out stickers and chanting: “What do we want? No cuts. When do we want them? Now.”

Dorset head of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) Geoff Cooke, said: “We have sent the message that the government has miscalculated the strength of feeling about pensions across the country. Dorset has a reputation for being a moderate county, but the support for industrial action has been massive.

“We have also been really impressed by the support we have received from the general public, including parents and bystanders.

“Hopefully now the government will listen.”

Tom Martin, 29, a teacher from Bournemouth and Poole College, who took part in the march in Dorchester, said: “Obviously being a young teacher I’m looking to protect my future.

“People will move into the private sector and we won’t be able to attract the same calibre of teachers.”

But the walkout was not just confined to teachers in the public sector. Rick Raumann, union representative for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers at Canford School, in Wimborne, said around half the school staff was taking action by wearing union colours and putting up placards.

He added: “We pay into the Teachers Pension Scheme even though we are not in the public sector. Our employer contribution comes from a business. The government does not contribute to our pension at all.

“The government wants to take independent school teachers out of the TPS and because no private sector school can afford anything like it, it will be like people have no pension at all.

“It’s an attack upon teachers in the independent sector, that’s why we are particularly angry.”