Teachers in Thanet have been among those taking to the picket lines today (February 1) in a dispute about pay.
Members of the National Education Union (NEU) have held rallies, including one in Canterbury, and formed smaller picket line protests, including teachers from the Royal Harbour Academy in Ramsgate and St Peter’s Junior School.
In an ongoing campaign for a fully-funded, above inflation pay rise, teacher members of the National Education Union in England and Wales and support staff in Wales voted overwhelmingly for strike action.
The union declared seven days of strike action for this month and March, though any individual school will only be affected by four of them.
— Dr. Lucy Lyons (@LucyLyons) February 1, 2023
The first took place today (February 1) affecting 23,400 schools in England and Wales. Teachers are protesting about pay but also over cuts to school budgets and the resulting recruitment crisis.
NEU rep Maggie Johnson, who works at Royal Harbour Academy, said: “What’s offered is not a funded pay rise, it means we are getting less to spend. Also our school’s pupil premium is high and the money for this has to come from somewhere.
“Staff are even buying things themselves, like glue sticks, because we care about the students and want them to have a good education. The government needs to fund schools properly, youngsters are the most important thing and they are our future.”
Maggie, who joined the rally in Canterbury after being on the picket in Ramsgate, said the public had generally been supportive.
Upcoming strike days affecting the south east:
Thursday 2 March: all eligible members in the following English regions: London, South East, South West.
Wednesday 15 March: all eligible members in England and Wales.
Thursday 16 March: all eligible members in England and Wales.
Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union, said: “We have continually raised our concerns with successive education secretaries about teacher and support staff pay and its funding in schools and colleges, but instead of seeking to resolve the issue they have sat on their hands. It is disappointing that the Government prefers to talk about yet more draconian anti-strike legislation, rather than work with us to address the causes of strike action.
“This is not about a pay rise but correcting historic real-terms pay cuts. Teachers have lost 23% in real-terms since 2010, and support staff 27% over the same period. The average 5% pay rise for teachers this year is some 7% behind inflation. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, that is an unsustainable situation.”
The NEU says pay for experienced teachers has fallen by one fifth in real terms since 2010.
Teachers are being offered a five per cent rise this year but the NEU says this is a seven per cent cut due to soaring inflation.
The NEU adds: “Children are losing out because there are not enough teachers. Even when there is a teacher in the classroom, increasingly they are not qualified in the subject they are teaching.
“Parents and grandparents hear their children and grandchildren talking about ‘new’ teachers in the middle of the school year; of lessons being ‘covered’ by supply teachers, of teachers leaving. Lack of qualified teachers harms the education that children and young people receive.
“To save education, we must take action to ensure that educators get an inflation-plus pay increase.”
Strike action took place after talks with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan failed.
Ms Keegan said the strike action was “hugely disappointing.”
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