Watch as teachers on South Tyneside picket line demand Government pay up for schools, teachers and children'
Teachers on the borough’s picket lines have demanded the Government “pay up for schools, teachers, and children” with many schools “at breaking point” and already operating with a skeleton staff.
Schools across South Tyneside were either closed or partially closed today (Wednesday February 1) as members of the National Education Union (NEU), the largest teaching union, joined around 150,000 colleagues nationally in withdrawing their labour as a “last resort” in a bid to get the Government to take action.
Teachers are demanding a fully funded pay increase inline with inflation.
One of the picket lines teachers gathered was at Hebburn Comprehensive School which closed due to volume of staff on strike.
French teacher and NEU representative Jonny Chadwick, 29, said: “All we want is pay inline with inflation. Compared to other European countries such as Finland, where pay is double, teachers are poorly paid and aren’t given the professional recognition they deserve.”
A combination of pay and working conditions has resulted in large numbers of both experienced and recently qualified teachers leaving the profession which Jonny says is having a detrimental impact on children’s education.
He said: “Teachers regularly work 60 hour weeks and when weighed up against pay, workload and responsibility many experienced staff are leaving.
"At my school we already have lower sets with class sizes in excess of 20, which is far more than it used to be. Schools are at breaking point. We are already operating at what feels like a skeleton staff and all it needs is a few absences for the school to feel like it’s unable to function properly.
“I was supposed to have a teaching assistant and I didn’t see her until the summer term as she was covering lessons. Teaching is an incredibly responsible job and all we ask is it’s paid accordingly.”
With previous salary increases having to be partially paid out of existing school budgets, the NEU are demanding an increase in per pupil funding and that any pay rise is “fully funded.
The “current crisis” in education has seen around 25% of teachers leave the profession within five years of qualifying.
Jonny, who has been teaching for two years, said: “There were fifty people on my course and ten of those who graduated have already left teaching.”
NEU regional officer Robbie Faulds added: “Class sizes are the largest in 40 years, many teachers are teaching outside their specialism to plug gaps, and the Government fell 40% short of it’s secondary teaching graduate intake for this academic year.
"The real tipping point has been the cost of living crisis. The Government has not made any serious offer to even enter negotiations.”
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Responding to the strike, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “It’s hugely disappointing the NEU is continuing with strike action. These strikes will have a significant impact on children’s education, especially following the disruption of the past two years, and are creating huge uncertainly for parents.
“With talks ongoing on a range of issues, including around future pay, workload, behaviour and recruitment and retention, it’s clear that strikes are not being used as a last resort.
“I’ve been clear that unions don’t need to strike to meet with me. I also reiterated my call to union leaders to let head teachers know if they intend to strike.”