Workers at 25 sixth form colleges were set to strike on 5 November—the second walkout in a battle over pay and funding.
NEU union members held a buoyant day of strikes on 17 October.
Many strikers were driven by fury at how funding cuts are hitting the most vulnerable students. They also said real terms pay cuts have made it harder to get by.
Luisa at Saint Francis Xavier sixth form college in south London said cuts could put entire institutions at risk. “We’ve had quite a lot of classes shut down,” she told Socialist Worker.
“It has a knock-on effect, because if students can’t do a course here they will go elsewhere.”
Striker Roschelle added, “Sixth forms should be for everyone. We feel like we’re being ignored.”
Pickets held placards reading, “Striking for smaller class sizes,” and, “Striking for a better work-life balance.”
As Louisa put it, “We’re asked to do extra things such as promote enrichment activities, but there is no time to do that.
“All my classes are above what the maximum size should be.”
Fleur from Brighton’s Varndean sixth form college told Socialist Worker, “A majority of staff are part time, doing full time hours. It means you have cuts in pay but also your pension too.
“We don’t do this job for the money. But we just want conditions to be better for students.”
The threat of strikes saw workers offered an increase on their 1 percent pay offer—to 1.5 percent. And the government in September pledged an extra £400 million for 16-19 education.
But none of this comes close to making up for the real terms cuts that workers and the sector have suffered. Future strikes that could involve more workers can pile on more pressure.
The NEU is reballoting members at 16 sixth forms where the turnout in the first ballot failed to reach the
50 percent threshold for legal strikes.
The reballots end on 4 November—and branches that reach the turnout could join a third walkout planned for 20 November.
NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney promised that the campaign would continue if there is a general election.
Duncan Blackie, a union rep at Longley Park Sixth Form College in Sheffield, said, “It’s important that Kevin Courtney said we won’t stop for a general election.
“But the pressure will be on if a general election is called.
“It’s important that we do carry on. A lot of people feel now that conditions in sixth forms are getting beyond a joke. We need to hold the union to the strike dates.”