THOUSANDS of schoolchildren had the day off on Wednesday as teachers and school support staff joined the TUC Day of Action in protest at Government plans to change their pensions.
Teachers in Croydon joined hundreds of council staff, civil servants and NHS employees in the protest at changes that they say will result in public sector workers paying more for their pensions, working longer and getting less at the end.
More than 70 schools and educational centres across the borough were closed for the day while another 30 were only partially open.
Just five primary schools – Beaumont, Greenvale, Howard, St Peter's and The Crescent – and one nursery, Purley, reported they were operating normally.
Dave Harvey, secretary of the Croydon association of the National Union of Teachers, said: "We are comparing this with our action on June 30 and the support is much wider as far as we can tell.
"The idea that people are being forced by unions to take part is clearly nonsense."
Around 300 union members took part in a rally in the Queen's Gardens outside the council's Taberner House headquarters in Park Lane, followed by a march to East Croydon Station, from where many went on to the main rally in central London.
Laurie Pocock, of Unison, said: "It is hard to tell just how many people have come out but it is a large number. There is a lot of support for the protest and this is the biggest we have seen in Croydon for a long time."
A council spokesman said that most services, outside of schools, had been kept running although there had been some rearrangement of day care services.
Refuse collection, recycling and street cleaning, all run by an outside contractor, were unaffected, as was the Meals On Wheels service.
Croydon University Hospital also reported business as usual with no routine operations cancelled in advance.
The strike was, however, supported by NHS workers including physiotherapists, radiologists and clerical staff, who manned picket lines outside the hospital's three entrances.
Many more staff, including nurses, joined a lunchtime rally.
A statement from the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust said: "We are running our services today with minimal disruption across the trust. We are working closely with our trade union colleagues to ensure patient care is not compromised. Our first priority is to care for patients and our staff are committed to this."
Members of the Public and Commercial Service Union (PCS), which represents UK Border Agency, Revenue and Customs and Land Registry staff, picketed outside Lunar House in Wellesley Road and Southern House in Wellesley Grove.
Hayley Kilty, PCS organiser at Lunar House, said: "We have had a good turnout at the pickets and a lot of people have not shown for work."
She added that she believed staff, already angry at the effect on pensions, would have been made even more angry by the announcement on Tuesday that future wage increases are going to be capped at one per cent.
She said: "People are going to be pushed onto the breadline."