By Sadie Robinson
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Sixth form college walkouts hit hard

This article is over 4 years, 3 months old
 Workers are striking back against savage cuts crushing education
Issue 2691
Workers are determined to fight back
Workers are determined to fight back

Strikes were set to hit 34 sixth form colleges on Wednesday this week.

It will be the fourth walkout for the NEU union members in their battle over pay and funding.

The union says there is a shortfall of £700 million for post-16 education.

Jean Evanson is the post-16 national executive committee member for the union and a union rep at Shrewsbury Sixth Form College.

“We see the effects of savage cuts every day,” she told Socialist Worker.

“We have bigger class sizes, higher workloads, redundancies, cuts to courses and less support for students with special educational needs. We’ve also had a pay cut in real terms and people are angry about all of it.”

Duncan Blackie is an NEU rep at Longley Park Sixth Form in Sheffield.

“In my college there are no modern languages courses,” he told Socialist Worker. “There are no performing arts courses.

“And one thing that’s really starting to annoy people is that it’s becoming more obvious that we are very differently paid to school teachers.”

Trevor, an NEU member at Newham Sixth Form College, said the cost of living in London “means this job isn’t sustainable, especially for single people”.

The walkouts will hit over a third of all sixth form colleges across England.

And future strikes could be bigger.

The NEU is conducting indicative ballots for strikes in all sixth form colleges, before current ballots expire.

Results so far show strong support for more action.

“We got an overwhelming vote of 88 percent for strikes on a 75 percent turnout,” said Duncan. “It was good timing as it got everyone in the right place for this week’s strikes.”

Jean added, “We got a strong vote for strikes and beat the Tories’ 50 percent turnout threshold. We will fight on and we are determined to win.”

The union has called further strike dates on 27 February and 10 March, the day before a Tory budget. It is set to follow the indicative ballots with formal ballots after half term.

Duncan argued, “We need action as soon after the ballot result as possible.

“The harder we fight, the more likely we are to get a decent deal.”

The threat of strikes last year pushed the government to pledge an extra £400 million for sixth form colleges.

But as joint NEU general secretary Kevin Courtney told strikers at a rally in October, “We have started to move them, but £400 million is nothing like enough.”

Jean argued, “I would encourage parents and other trade unionists to join our lobby of parliament on 27 February.

“And other union members in schools can show their support for us by sending messages of solidarity and joining our picket lines.”

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