NEARLY 18,000 children are set to be affected as today's national teacher strike closes 23 schools across the borough.

Four secondary schools, 18 primary schools and one special school - with nearly 11,000 pupils between them - will shut their gates as teachers take to the picket line for the first time in more than 20 years.

Lessons will be disrupted at another 30 schools, affecting a further 7,000 youngsters, Hounslow Council confirmed this week.

As the Chronicle went to press on Tuesday, 17 more schools had yet to reveal how they would be affected by the industrial action.

Teachers voted overwhelmingly in favour of the strike earlier this month over the Government's below-inflation pay increase of 2.45 per cent.

They claim low pay and the rising cost of living, which have already seen the number of new trainee teachers decline by up to a fifth this year, could lead to widespread staff shortages.

It is the first national teachers' strike since 1987, when a three-year rolling programme of industrial action ended.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which represents nearly half of the 460,000 full-time staff in England and Wales, voted three-to-one in favour of today's strike.

But the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, which claims to have a bigger membership, has accepted the pay deal.

Hounslow NUT secretary Marilyn Baker, who teaches at Bedfont Junior School, said: "I was part of the strike in the 80s, when the situation was so desperate I had to take a second job as a barmaid to pay my mortgage.

"Young teachers today face similar problems, especially in London, where the cost of property is so high.

"It's sad that children will miss out on a day's education but if the problems recruiting and holding on to the best young teachers continue they will miss out on a lot more than that."