Nearly a third of schools in England and Wales have been disrupted, and one in 10 closed completely during the biggest teachers' strike in 21 years.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) said thousands of members had heeded its strike for a 4.1% pay rise.

Meanwhile, thousands of civil servants also walked out, disrupting government departments and the coastguard service.

The public sector unions have not ruled out further strikes against the government's 2% pay target.

Up to 400,000 teachers, lecturers, civil and public servants walked out on Thursday in a one-day protest at what they said were below-inflation wage rises.

Schools, colleges, government departments and the coastguard service were all affected as members of the NUT and Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) stayed away.

At a rally in London, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said that giving public sector workers below-inflation pay rises "simply wasn't good enough" for a Labour government.

He said: We need a fundamental change of direction. If the government continues to use the public sector like a political football, I am convinced they will pay a devastating price at the general election."

A Treasury spokesman said the government would continue with its policy of holding public-sector pay settlements at or near to a 2% increase.

He said Gordon Brown was determined to keep pay awards low, in the interest of controlling inflation.

The one-day teachers' strike, which was condemned by all the main political parties, affected up to 9,500 schools. Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the NUT, told the BBC that she could not rule out further pay strikes in the months ahead.

More than 2.5m pupils were estimated to have been affected by Thursday's strike - with more than a million forced to stay at home. Many pupils are studying for GCSE examinations which start next month.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the strike had been called by a "minority" of teachers, and said it was regrettable for both pupils and parents.

BBC News