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‘The stakes are too high for education and for teachers’ Report and pictures from Coventry and Birmingham

‘The stakes are too high for education and for teachers’

Report and pictures from Coventry and Birmingham

Picket at Barrs Hill this morning

Picket at Barrs Hill this morning

Teaching unions NUT and NASUWT took successful strike action today. See this article here for background information .

There were picket lines at various schools across Coventry, followed by a huge regional rally in Birmingham.

Nicky Downes

Nicky Downes

NIcky Downes, Equalities Officer for Coventry NUT (personal capacity) commented

Today saw a successful strike that saw the vast majority of schools closed or predominantly closed. Many teachers went to Birmingham where a march was led by the striking teachers from John Gulson school. One teacher at the rally got a standing ovation for calling for further action until Gove backs down.

Teachers from John Gulson in Coventry lead the march

Teachers from John Gulson in Coventry lead the march

Jane Nellist added

Over 3000 teachers attended a demo and rally in Birmingham city centre on the second of the regional strikes by NUT and NASUWT members. Teachers from across the Midlands joined a lively protest. They applauded and cheered as speakers addressed the rally in the ICC. The attendance exceeded all expectation and an overspill room had to be set up. Teachers were in full agreement with the disastrous impact on education that this government was having.

Jane Nellist on the picket line

Jane Nellist on the picket line

The loudest of all applause was for the  commitment for further strike action. Including the idea of co-ordinated strike action with other unions.

What was clear was that the determination to fight this government, especially of young teachers, was evident. Teachers left clear that they cannot afford to give up this fight-the stakes are too high for education and for teachers.

The protest in Birmingham

The protest in Birmingham

Socialist Party members visited picket lines to show support and bring greetings from their own trade unions, whilst party members in the teaching unions are pushing for a continuation of the battle. We make an appeal to all teachers to consider joining the Socialist Party to help us build the ideas of struggle, solidarity and socialism in the unions. To apply to join click here

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‘We can’t afford not to strike!’ Jane Nellist speaks out on the strike of the teaching unions

“We can’t afford not to strike”

The article below was originally printed in the current issue of ‘The Socialist’ newspaper

Jane Nellist of the NUT (personal capacity) and Socialist Party. Photo from Coventry Telegraph

Jane Nellist of the NUT (personal capacity) and Socialist Party. Photo from Coventry Telegraph

Jane Nellist, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Coventry joint secretary, personal capacity

Last term’s strike in the North West showed how determined teachers are to defend their pay, pension and working conditions. On 1 October NUT and NASUWT members across the East and West Midlands, Eastern, Yorkshire and Humberside regions will join together to take one day of strike action.

When I explained in a school meeting about the changes to the pay policies as well as the likelihood of more attacks from Tory education minister Gove on our working conditions, including longer working hours, fewer holidays and less preparation (PPA) time, teachers were even more determined to take strike action. What’s more, they wanted the day to be named for national strike action in November.

“We cannot afford not to strike”, that was the view of one young teacher in her second year of teaching. She went on to describe how she often ends up in tears because of the pressure. She feels she can’t possibly achieve the workload without working every evening and all weekend. “How can I do this until I’m 68?” she asked. “How could I do this if I had a family?”

Teachers are realising that if they move schools, there is no guarantee that their new school will pay them the same rate. It’s going to be harder to move up the pay scales, with more links to ‘performance’ and the goal posts changing regularly.

Already we have lost over 15% of our take-home pay with frozen cost of living increases and pension increases. With mortgages harder to get, it’s going to make it more difficult for teachers to get housing.

If it had not been for our two days of national strike action in 2011, the cuts could have been much worse. We know that taking action can make a difference!

Although an inconvenience to parents, they understand why we are forced to take this action.

Following further regional strike action on 17 October, the NUT and NASUWT are planning national strike action if the government fails to listen to their demands.

Given that so many sectors and workplaces have grievances with their employer and with the government, it would be so much more powerful if we joined together and took coordinated strike action on the same day.

What is clear is that we have to stand firm and, if necessary, be prepared to take more strike action. The government attacks are aimed at getting education into a fit state to be privatised – it’s not good for teachers and it certainly isn’t good for our pupils. Just like the young teacher said – we cannot afford not to strike!