SCHOOLS in Coventry faced disruption today (July 5) when teachers took strike action over pay and working conditions.
Picket lines were organised at Barrs Hill, Foxford and Blue Coat schools, and Coventry City Council confirmed eight of its schools, excluding academies, were closed and 42 partially closed.
Demonstrations were also staged at the Department For Education building at The Butts, Spon End, and Broadgate, city centre, before striking teachers joined a rally in Birmingham later in the day.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) says it is part of a continuing battle with the government over working conditions and the impact on staff and children’s ‘safeguarding, health, well-being and learning’.
The NUT claims it is getting significant support from parents.
Jane Nellist, joint secretary of Coventry NUT and national executive member said: “The NUT is not taking action lightly. In light of the huge funding cuts to schools, worsening terms and conditions, and unmanageable and exhausting workloads, teachers cannot be expected to go on without significant change.
“The effects on children’s education are also real and damaging. As a result of school funding cuts, class sizes are increasing, subject choices are being cut, and children are getting less individual attention as teachers and support staff are made redundant or not replaced when they leave.
“There is worse to come, with the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicting that the biggest real terms cuts to per pupil funding in a generation are on the way.
“There is already a teacher recruitment and retention crisis in our schools. Without significant change to the pay and working condition of teachers, this will simply deepen. We know that many parents share our concerns.
“At the absolute minimum, schools urgently need extra funding to meet the additional costs government has put on them through increased National Insurance and pension payments.
“This amounts to a 5 per cent charge on the teachers’ pay bill for schools. George Osborne is freezing the cash per pupil he gives to schools, whilst increasing what he takes from them. For every 20 teachers employed, a school has to find an extra teacher salary to give to the Treasury.
“The commitment from Government to ensure all schools become academies will result in decisions on pay and working conditions, including maternity/paternity rights and sick pay, being made at school level. There is absolutely no evidence that this sort of deregulation will lead to higher standards.
“There needs to be a guarantee of good standards for teachers’ terms and conditions across the board, in all schools. School leaders’ attention should be on educating children, not squandering huge amounts of time on negotiating individual staff members’ contracts.”
Andy Summers and Martin McMahon of the NUT Warwickshire division said: “Parents supporting the Let Our Kids be Kids Campaign understand the external pressure teachers face day after day as they struggle to meet narrow government targets, increasingly meaningless paperwork and harmful assessment processes.
“Parents recognise the alarm expressed by professional teachers regarding the dangers associated with flawed performance management structures, performance related pay and the psychological pressure this passes on to vulnerable children.”
They accepted the impact of the strike will vary between schools, as other school staff are members of other unions and associations.
The NUT says it is looking into complaints from some members that they faced intimidation against taking part in what is a ‘legal’ trade union dispute.
Demonstrations across the country will call on education secretary Nicky Morgan to ‘fully negotiate’ over the issues, which include calls for more funding for schools.
Teachers who are members of the NUT voted more than nine to one for industrial action.
Around a fifth of schools were forced to close during the last strike two years ago over pay, pensions and working conditions.
Deborah Lawson, general secretary of Voice, said the strike is a ‘futile and politically motivated gesture’.
The Department for Education (DfE) says it has protected schools’ funding from cuts and has said the action is ‘unnecessary’ and ‘damaging’.