Workers across 34 sixth form colleges were set to strike on Thursday this week, demanding more funding and higher pay.
The action will be the fifth walkout in the current dispute. And striking NEU union members plan to rally in central London on the strike day and march on the Department for Education.
They want to pile pressure on MPs ahead of next month’s budget.
Speakers at the rally will include Kevin Courtney, the NEU general secretary, Jean Evanson from the NEU executive and Debby Pope of the Chicago Teachers Union.
Jean told Socialist Worker, “It will be great to speak alongside Debby. Teachers’ unions in Chicago have fought successfully for better learning conditions for the communities they serve alongside better working conditions for educators.
“They have faced the effects of increased marketisation of education. Students will always lose out when financial concerns are put ahead of the learning needs that they have.” Jean describes the impact of years of funding cuts on students.
“In our sector we have seen cut after cut,” she said. “There is less money available for students with special educational needs. There’s less money for those students in financial difficulties.
“Subjects have been cut from the curriculum. Hours are being cut. Class sizes are getting bigger.
“The social injustice is immense. Students in private schools are being taught in tiny classes without financial restrictions.” And the stress of real terms pay cuts risks driving teachers out of sixth forms—and hurts education.
“Teacher and support staff have had ten years of pay rises well below inflation, equating to a real terms cut of around 16 percent,” said Jean.
“Their workload is spiralling out of control as classes get bigger and produce more marking. Stress increases with educators trying hard to support more students.”
Workers plan a sixth strike on Tuesday 10 March, the day before the budget.
And reballots mean further strikes could be bigger. As ballots expire, unions have to run new ballots to hold more legal strikes.
The NEU is beginning ballots across all 68 English sixth forms. Indicative ballots earlier this month showed a mood to keep fighting.
Jean said, “Staff should be paid at least the same as in schools. That happens in Wales. Why shouldn’t it be true in England?
“Take the market out of education.”