Teachers march for pay as more strikes expected

MAKING THE CASE: Teachers in Calverley Grounds on Tuesday

HUNDREDS of teachers in Tunbridge Wells marched through the town yesterday after walking out of classrooms to demand better pay and working conditions.

Teachers from across the Borough and beyond met at Calverley Grounds for a rally with flags, music and posters on Tuesday May 2.

Yesterday was the second national strike in a week after members from the National Education Union (NEU) also walked out on Thursday April 27 amid students taking their end of year exams.

An estimated 7,000 pupils at schools across Tunbridge Wells are expected to have been affected during their exam season, with some schools closing to certain year groups to allow Years 11 and 13 to take their GCSEs and A Levels.

The strikes follow the union’s unanimous rejection of the Government’s pay offer of a £1,000 one-off-payment and a 4.3 per cent pay rise next year, with almost 200,000 members voting 98 per cent against the offer.

The opposition is the largest in the union’s history as they continue to pressure the Government to recognise the issues around teacher recruitment and retention by asking for a fully funded above inflation pay rise that does not come from the school’s budget.

After the strikes on Thursday, Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said she was “extremely disappointed” by the strike action as more than half of the 22,000 schools in England closed or partially closed.

The Department of Education have said that school funding would be at its highest level next year after the Government pledged an extra £2billion investment into schools.

But Maria Fawcett, NEU Regional Secretary said the Government continues to overlook the impact on education that comes from poor teacher pay.

She said: “Gillian Keegan is failing to address the multiple problems damaging our children’s education – around teacher recruitment and retention problems, and inadequate school funding.

“She has been told by the profession – and a significant majority of the profession – that her pay and funding offer is not good enough. 98 per cent of NEU members rejected it, on a two-thirds turnout.

“Her response has been to deny the way the wind is blowing. She is refusing to return to the negotiating table.

“It is this inaction, this silence which has left NEU teacher members in England’s schools and sixth form colleges to reluctantly take two more days of national strike action in the coming days.”

According to the NEU, teachers have lost 23 per cent in real terms against RPI inflation since 2010 with nearly half, 44 per cent of state school teachers, planning to quit in the next five years.

The union is expected to announce three further strike days in the summer term with two other unions, NASUWT and NAHT re-balloting their members and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) due to ballot for the first time in their history.

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