Schools across County Durham were forced to close or cancel lessons for the second time in four weeks due to the teaching assistant strikes , the Chronicle Live reports.

Almost 100 schools have been affected by the teaching assistant strikes which began on Wednesday as the dispute over plans to fire and rehire teaching assistants on new term time only contracts continues.

The local council has said only 23 schools were to close completely this week due to strike action. The authority said that it had meetings with Unison, the representative union, last week and is disappointed there will be more strike action.

Jane Brown, the council’s cabinet member for corporate services said:

“We are really, really disappointed. This is obviously going to have some impact on our schools but also we’re even more disappointed that having been in further discussions with Unison only last week they’re going ahead with industrial action. We’re really hoping that will be the case this time and the disruption caused by the strike will be kept to a minimum.”

School support staff protested at dozens of picket lines across the county. From today until the end of term, teaching assistants will ‘work to rule’ and only work their contracted regular hours instead of working through their breaks, coming in early, staying late or taking work home.

Ahead of the teaching assistant strikes Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said:

“Durham council can no longer have any doubts about how seriously teaching assistants are taking this dispute. Council plans to slash the salaries of its already low-paid staff are appalling and heartless. Surely now councillors will see sense and get round the negotiating table with a proper offer. Teaching assistants hate the idea of inconveniencing parents but this is now the only way for school support workers to win the pay they deserve.”

Teaching assistants could lose up to 23% of their salary with the new contracts, though the local authority has offered compensation packages.

Unions have called this a “life changing” sum of money that will leave many people unable to pay their rent or mortgages in their current jobs.

One teaching assistant, Clair Reed, who works at Villa Real School in Consett told the Chronicle she would face a £4,243 pay cut. Reports say this would lead to a £3m saving in the salaries, though these savings will be in schools’ budgets, rather than Durham County Council’s.

Initially when the plans were first mooted it was thought it would affect around 2,700 members of staff, however, latest figures from the council show that there are 2,398 teaching assistants who will be affected by the contract changes.