NEU union members in 23 sixth form colleges were set to strike on Thursday in a battle over pay and funding.
The action is the first of three planned walkouts. It follows years of funding cuts that have led to courses being cut, class sizes growing and increasing workload.
Some colleges have been forced to close or merge as a result of the cuts.
Sixth form colleges are the hardest hit of all 16-19 education provision. Some 22 percent has been cut in real terms since 2010.
And workers’ pay has fallen by 16 percent.
Colleges that will be striking include City and Islington, Brighton, Hove and Sussex, Hereford, Long Road, Newham and Shrewsbury Colleges Group.
Pippa Dowswell is an NEU rep at City and Islington Sixth Form College in north London. She said, “Funding cuts have had a massive impact on our college.
“We have been forced into a merger which has resulted in degradation of all our support services. There has been a huge impact on workload as teachers try to plug the gaps.
“The decrease in pay has caused the college to lose staff members as they can no longer afford to live in London.”
The union is demanding that funding for sixth form colleges per student should rise from £4,000 to at least £4,760. It wants sixth form college lecturers’ pay to be brought up to the level of school teachers.
In recent ballots, 84 percent of NEU members who voted supported strikes on an overall turnout of 43 percent.
The Tories’ 50 percent turnout threshold requirement was reached in 25 colleges, but two are not part of this week’s walkout due to half term.
The union plans further strikes for 5 and 20 November. And it has begun reballots in 16 other sixth form colleges that didn’t reach the turnout requirement in the initial ballot.
This means the strike on 20 November could be significantly bigger.
School strikers in south London celebrate victory
Workers at Bexleyheath Academy were celebrating last week after strikes by NEU union members stopped compulsory redundancies.
Lynne Chamberlain from Greenwich & Bexley TUC told Socialist Worker, “After just four days of determined strikes, management completely withdrew the threat of compulsory redundancies.
“This means that 19 teaching assistant jobs were saved. The strikes were supported by many local trade unions.”
The academy is run by the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET).
The school was put into special measures following an inspection by the Ofsted schools inspectorate last November.
Ofsted said the school failed to deliver an “acceptable standard” of education.
Fight nursery funding cuts
The NEU union is fighting to defend nurseries from funding cuts.
Supplementary funding for maintained nursery schools (MNS) ends in August next year.
The union said the cut puts all 392 MNS’s at risk of closure. It is asking people to sign a petition to save the nurseries, and to encourage nursery head teachers to sign a letter opposing the cut.