A number of schools in Eastbourne were forced to close yesterday (Thursday) as teachers held a day of strike action in a row over pay, pensions and working conditions.
Some were partially closed and others shut for the entire day as members of the NUT and NASUWT teaching unions, which collectively represent more than 90 per cent of teachers, went on strike. In Eastbourne there was a rally of teachers at Eastbourne Town Hall during the morning and some schools had picket lines.
Phil Clarke from the NUT said, “The strike is a result of Michael Gove’s and the Department for Education’s attacks on teachers’ pay, pensions and working conditions. Strike action is a last resort for teachers but anger at school closures must be directed at the government.”
Local NUT spokesperson David Brinson, who attended the Eastbourne rally, said, “When teachers go on strike it is because there is no other way. We are defending our profession from relentless and ideological attacks from the Secretary of State.
“It is important to point out that this strike is not a demand for a pay rise: we are seeking to defend teachers’ existing conditions, and the imposition of a pay free-for-all that is clearly designed to hold pay down especially for young teachers entering the profession.
“Michael Gove’s talk of performance pay is a red herring: teachers with five years’ service or more have had performance-related pay for many years, and there has always been the scope to promote excellent young teachers. The end of a national pay scale is a race to the bottom, that will pit school against school, see class sizes rise, and widen the use of unqualified staff in our classrooms.
“No teacher came into the profession to get rich, or for an easy life. But we are wilting under a mountain of bureaucracy, and now face the removal of even basic protections in our working conditions, protections that are there to limit administrative and bureaucratic tasks, and to free my members up to do what they came into the profession to do – teach our young people!”
Conservative MP hopeful Caroline Ansell said, “I couldn’t have been more dismayed by the decision of my children’s schools and other schools across the town to close their doors to pupils on Thursday. How can it be right to use children as leverage in an argument over pay?
“But I’m on the side of teachers – those 82.7 per cent of teachers who did not vote to strike. Unions claim to represent the interests of the profession and yet by this action they do not win public support, they lose it.
“One friend in the playground said to me, ‘I bet private schools won’t be closed because parents pay; true, but so do we, taxpayers all. Worse still, on Thursday, it cost the children.”