By Jemma Willson
Teachers on the Isle and across England staged their seventh strike this morning (July 7), their second just this week.
Among them were members of staff from Newington Community Primary School in Ramsgate who are part of the NEU (National Education Union). As children and their families who were able to attend school this morning did so, they were greeted by the three.
Tim Knight and Jane Ward who teach in year 2, and Julie Hessey who teaches Reception, handed out stickers that stated “I voted YES to fund our schools”, and leaflets with information surrounding their reasons for striking.
The trio answered questions from intrigued children and their grown ups, while they also waved flags and called out their thanks to drivers who beeped their support.
As parents waited for the school gates to open, the trio explained more information to those who had extra questions, and the atmosphere was one of understanding and support, rather than irritation or annoyance.
Any confusion today, and prior to this week’s picketing, seemingly lies with the conversation surrounding pay demands, something which Tim Knight explained further.
He said: “This isn’t about pay, it’s about funding for our school, and the future of our children.”
He highlighted the leaflet, still being handed out by the other two members of staff, which say:
More teachers than ever before left the job last year.
40,000 left last year-which is 9% of all teachers.
The number of head teachers who left before retirement is the highest it’s ever been.
The gap between the number of new teachers needed, and the number actually starting, is the worst it’s been for decades.
The number of job vacancies recorded in England’s schools is the highest since 2004.
The number of children in class sizes over 30 is the biggest ever.
The pupil:teacher ratio in both secondary and primary schools is among the worst in the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). In secondary, only Chile, Brazil, Columbia and Mexico are worse.
Although the disruption has been minimised and handled as best as possible with members of staff missing, thanks to the quick and thorough organisation by headteacher Hannah Tudor and her team, the NEU have said that this disruption could have been ended by ministers if they’d already offered a better deal.
The government has previously offered a £1000 one off payment to teachers, and a 4.5% increase for staff for the next school year, but the NEU along with other education unions, had rejected this offer, citing a report by the STRB (School Teachers Review Body) which has recommended a 6.5% increase.
Tim Knight, Jane Ward and Julie Hessey, agree with this response, and along with the strike action at the school today, joined 300,000 other teachers who are part of the NEU, and marched on parliament on Wednesday 5th July.
“We will continue to strike, if the union gets enough votes and until the government listens and realises there is a crisis in education.” Tim Knight said. “Ultimately, we are doing this for the state of our schools, and to make sure we have the money to resource children’s learning.”
As of today, Gillian Keegan the Education Secretary, has remained silent since she last spoke about the matters at Easter.
The NEU and strikers across the country remain determined to continue spreading their message to Gillian Keegan and the government, saying if the government wants the strikes to stop, talks must restart, an independent report into pay needs to be published, and funds need to be increased in order to stop this crisis. Until then, strikes and disruption unfortunately remain.