First regional strike affects more than 2,700 schools in North West

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More than 2,700 schools in North West England were disrupted or closed last Thursday (June 27), after teachers held a one-day strike over changes to pay, conditions and pensions.

The joint action by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT was the first in a series of planned regional walk-outs which are also in protest at wider government education policy.

Last week’s strike was thought to have affected 2,765 schools across 22 local authority areas, with rallies held in Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Chester. 

The unions have said action will spread to other parts of the country in the autumn with a national one-day strike scheduled to take place before Christmas.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the action had disrupted education and inconvenienced parents. Michael Gove, the education secretary, had met with the unions before the strike went ahead, but no agreement was reached. In May, he wrote to the unions stressing that the “direction of travel” of his policies was “fixed”.

Teachers said they had no choice but to strike. Don Grant, head of science at St James’ CE School in Farnworth, Greater Manchester, told SecEd: “It is a hard decision to go on strike, nobody wants to do it, but if we don’t do it now then we will never do it.

“It is ludicrous that on one hand Mr Gove wants the very best to become teachers and then he will allow non-qualified people to teach.”

He added: “Do you want your kids to be taught by teachers who are 68-years-old? Mr Gove can stop this by talking to us.”

Phil Roberts, a modern languages teacher at Bolton St Catherine’s Academy, added: “The government has its own agenda, to privatise all public services and make money for its friends. That is its only agenda.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Over the last three years, the coalition government has mounted savage attacks on teachers’ pay, pensions and conditions of service.

“The responsibility for action rests with the failure of the secretary of state to engage in meaningful negotiations. To justify these attacks and education reforms, the secretary of state has sought to denigrate teachers and present our public education system as broken. As a result the teaching profession is now in crisis.”

Christine Blower, the NUT’s general secretary, added: “We seriously regret the disruption strike action in the North West of England caused parents and pupils, but with the profession now under serious attack from the government we have to take a stand to protect education and teachers.

“The NUT and the NASUWT are asking the government to enter into genuine talks to resolve this dispute. The responsibility for today’s action rests with the failure of the secretary of state to engage in meaningful negotiations.” 

A DfE spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are opposing measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more. We have met frequently with the NUT and NASUWT to discuss their concerns and will continue to do so.”

On the picket line – what striking teachers had to say

Fiona West, Oldham: “Children need to be taught well because they are the leaders, creative thinkers and inventors of tomorrow, so today I am striking because I fear I won’t be able to continue to be what my pupils need as a teacher. I am striking to stand up for my profession, to stand up for standards and most of all for the young people I work with.”

Katrina Cross, Manchester: “I think it is really important that teachers stand together at a time when education is under attack. I have been teaching for over 25 years and under the Labour government we made massive progress as a profession. We now have a situation where we have a government which has an agenda about getting rid of public education and attacking poor families.”

Gavin Childs, Tameside: “This action is vital in terms of the next steps Michael Gove wants to take in attacking our terms and conditions. There have been enough attacks already on the education system but it seems like everything that we have fought for over the decades he wants to get rid of. There is huge concern about the way things are going and what all these attacks mean for the future of the education service, and what it will mean for the next generation and how it will affect their life chances.”

 


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