Picket lines formed outside St Joseph’s School in Burnham-On-Sea and King Alfred School Academy in Highbridge on Thursday (March 16th) when several local teachers joined a two-day national strike.
It was the fourth day of action this year to call on the Government to provide improved funding for schools.
Our photo above shows the picket line at St Joseph’s and, below, at King Alfred School Academy where the teachers reported lots of support from passers-by. Pupils from Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12 were asked to work from home.
Several other Burnham and Highbridge teachers from the National Education Union (NEU) also travelled to London on Wednesday to take part in a mass demonstration.
The Department for Education asked for “formal talks on pay, conditions and reform”, but only if the NEU called off the strikes. The NEU said it would only suspend action if good progress was made first. Unions want above-inflation increases, plus extra money to ensure rises do not come from existing budgets.
Salaries in England fell by an average of 11% between 2010 and 2022, after taking inflation into account, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says. Unions claim teacher pay has fallen by as much as 23% in that time.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says the government has committed an extra £2bn in England, taking “real-terms spending on schools to its highest level in history”.
The government offered most teachers a 3% rise in 2023/24 – which the NEU says is not enough.
Niel Apps, Somerset National Education Union committee member, said “Teachers do not strike lightly but over 150,000 felt so strongly that education is being damaged by 13 years of underfunding that action was required. The issue that the NEU is campaigning on is funding for education, part of which is obviously teachers’ pay.”
“Teachers have experienced a 23% pay cut in real terms, due to receiving very small or no pay rises for 15 years. Coupled with this the current spike in inflation has meant that some simply cannot pay their bills, this is not a reasonable situation to put anyone in, especially those who are entrusted with educating our children.”
“But what is not being discussed enough, is that the NEU Pay campaign is for the pay rise to be fully funded, so it does not come out of school’s budgets and further exacerbate the education crisis. This means out colleagues in schools who are not teachers, will also benefit, as there will be more money available for the primary purpose of schools, educating our children.”
“Students who are doing their GCSEs and A levels this year have experienced their entire time in education with an underfunded system. They don’t get to re-do this time in education. The government says there is no money, but it was just announced that there was a £5 billion surplus in expected tax income in January. Money has been found before, £137 billion to bail out the banks after they tanked the economy of the world, £12 billion in PPE, £1.6 billion of which went to supporters of the government.”
“As I have said before, this is about a choice about what this country wants to make its priority, the future in in the shape of our children, with an education system funded to allow them to receive the education the deserve; or more years of chronic underfunding leading to teachers leaving the profession we love because we cannot afford to continue and schools deteriorating so much that they are falling down.”
“The Government have suggested that the NEU will not meet to discuss pay, but the Secretary of state said she will only meet the unions if they call off the strike action. The government made no attempt to engage after the strikes were discussed at the NEU conference last Easter, no attempt to discuss when the strikes were balloted on during the winter term.”
“The secretary of state has not made any offer, or indeed suggested that she would negotiate on pay. The government claim they must abide by the guidance given by the independent panel on teacher’s pay, but they have routinely ignored the recommendation of this body for the last 10 years. They have also said, before the body has even deliberated for next year, that teachers can have a 3.5% pay rise next year, either the independent body should be listened to or it should not, it cannot be both.”