Schools across Essex were forced to close today after teachers from the NUT joined firefighters and other public sector workers in a mass strike.

In Braintree the confirmed school closures were Bocking Primary School and Tabor Academy, while Alec Hunter Academy asked Year 10 students to stay at home due to staff shortages.

In the Halstead area Hedingham School closed while Ramsey Academy opened only to Year Seven and Year Eight students.

Braintree Council said 17% of the overall workforce had joined the strike, affecting rubbish collections.

Some grey bins, recycling, garden and food waste may now be left until the next scheduled collection day.

The government introduced a pay freeze for public sector workers in 2010, followed by a 1% pay rise cap in 2012. With inflation at 1.5% unions say this amounts to a pay cut.

Teachers and firefighters are also striking over working conditions, pension reforms and plans to make them retire later.

A spokesperson for Essex Fire Service said: “Members of the public should continue to dial 999 in an emergency and we will respond.

“Businesses just make a note to follow up automatic alarms with a phone call to ensure a response.”