Socialist Worker

Sixth form teachers' strike fires opening shot in battle to defend education

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2495

Strikers on a confident picket line in south London this morning

Strikers on a confident picket line in south London this morning (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Teachers in sixth form colleges across England are on strike today, Tuesday, against the devastating impact of Tory funding cuts.

The Tories have slashed some 14 percent from funding in real terms and want to take out 8 percent more. NUT union members say the attacks make their conditions worse—and damage education for students.

Nimerta was on the picket line at St Francis Xavier Sixth Form College in south London. She told Socialist Worker that she rejoined the NUT so she could take part in the action.

“You cannot teach properly because of these cuts,” she said. “I’m a science teacher and our class sizes have doubled.

“It makes doing practical work really difficult and means some people can’t take part. When we’ve split the class to make sure the practical work gets done, then students get less tuition time.”

NUT members were picketing at Scarborough Sixth Form College. Union rep Amanda said, "The public isn't aware than a review process will mean a third of FE colleges will be shut down, or that in those that remain contracts for staff are uncertain. This government doesn't care. It's time for people to stand up, join a union and fight these cuts."

 

 

 

The strike is well supported across Britain. Strikers in Oldham were determined to beat back the Tories attacks

The strike is well supported across Britain. Strikers in Oldham were determined to beat back the Tories' attacks (Pic: Martin Jones )


NUT members were on the picket line at Monoux College in Walthamstow, east London, from early morning. One picket told Socialist Worker, “Our strike today has been very solid with all NUT members out. We have received great support from the students, many of whom are wearing stickers supporting us.”

Strikers were angry at increased workloads and stress, but also about the effect of the cuts on students. They were buoyed by the government’s failure in court yesterday to get an injunction to stop the strike going ahead.

Strikers in Nottingham were in high spirits

Strikers in Nottingham were in high spirits (Pic: Richard Buckwell )


The government argued the strike was “based on political grounds and not a trade dispute about the terms and conditions of its members”.

The High Court rejected that and ruled that the strike was lawful.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower told Socialist Worker, “We’re very pleased at the victory for democracy that took place in court. The government will have got a big shock. This is a step forward not just for the NUT but for the union movement as a whole.”

Hackney lecturers sound the clarion of resistance

Hackney lecturers sound the clarion of resistance (Pic: Sasha Simic )

On the picket line in Scarborough

On the picket line in Scarborough (Pic: Kim Hunter)


 

Sizes 

NUT rep at St Francis Xavier Jessica Hardy said, “It did us a favour because we got all over the news.” She explained how the cuts were biting. “We work longer hours and have larger class sizes,” she said. “There’s no enrichment for students anymore.

“Anything extra that we used to provide is gone because we can’t afford it. And when staff leave, they aren’t replaced.”

Widespread 

Many pickets felt that the government was nervous of strikes after junior doctors won widespread support for their walkouts.

Other teachers joined the picket line to show support. At Bilborough Sixth Form College in Nottingham, an NASUWT union member brought tea to the picket line.

At Cambridge’s Long Road college the vast majority of NUT members were striking. Teacher Nick told Socialist Worker, “I teach an applied media course and we’ve seen our classrooms stripped of equipment because of cuts.

“It’s been distributed around the college instead. And there’s wear and tear on equipment that would normally have been replenished.

“We subsidise fewer trips. This is impoverishing the education and experience of students – and that’s criminal.”

NUT rep Tom Woodcock told Socialist Worker, “The strike had a major impact – there were hardly any students in.

“Now people are discussing what should happen next. I think the union should ballot across the membership for action over funding cuts. That would be an escalation. The fight over sixth forms should be stepped up – but it’s also part of a bigger fight too.”

Lucy was on the picket line at BSix college in east London. She told Socialist Worker, “There’s resistance to the Tory attacks every week – last week it was the junior doctors, this week it’s us.

“We have to join up and take them on together.”

Teachers plan a rally in central London at 12 noon before a brief meeting at parliament and a march to the Department for Education.


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