By Sam Ord
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2853

‘We’re not backing down’ say striking teachers

The NEU union plan to walk out again on Tuesday of next week
Issue 2853
Teachers picket at Archbishop Tenison's School in south London/ Strikers are holding NEU union flags and a banner

Teachers strike at Archbishop Tenison’s School in south London (Picture: Socialist Worker)

School and sixth form teachers walked out across England on Thursday—and discussed the next steps in their fight over pay. 

NEU union members mounted lively picket lines at hundreds of schools, and received solidarity from other trade unionists. In Harrow, west London, teachers rallied outside the office of local Tory MP Bob Blackman, waving flags reading, “Pay up”.

Oxfordshire NEU joint district secretary Stuart Robinson was part of a rally of 400 school workers. “We are striking for a proper pay rise after 13 years of Tory cuts—this year is the largest pay cut we have had in real terms,” he told Socialist Worker. 

“The government can find £3 billion for super-rich tax breaks, but they seemingly don’t value public sector workers or education.”

Melanie is a teacher in Waltham Forest in east London. “We need better funding for our schools,” she told Socialist Worker. “There’s a crisis already in Waltham Forest in terms of teacher retention. And with constant cuts to our funding it’s more and more challenging to get students the teachers they need.” 

She added, The picket lines have been very active, we’ve had lots of solidarity from other unions such as junior doctors and the renters union. It’s really great because we are directly across from one of the hospitals so we’ve been getting lots of solidarity from nurses.”

It’s the first teachers’ strike since 98 percent of NEU union members rejected the Tories’ pay deal at the beginning of the month. The insult would have left workers with a £1,000 payment for 2022-23 and a 4.5 percent rise for 2023-24. Only 0.5 percent was government funded—meaning school budget cuts. 

David, a teacher at Dean Trust School in Manchester, told Socialist Worker it’s impossible to take money from “school budgets without affecting school resources”. 

At Archbishop Tenison’s School in Oval, south London, NEU and Unison union members also struck to save the school from closure. Some 30 people stood on the picket line, receiving masses of solidarity from passing buses and cyclists as the workers chanted, “Save our school.”

Hannah, a teacher at the school, told Socialist Worker, “Only 0.5 percent of the rejected offer came from the government—that’s not sustainable.” 

Terry Sullivan, a teacher in Islington in north London, told Socialist Worker, “At my primary school half of the NEU members joined the picket line. The school was completely closed and I work across the road from a high school where workers also closed their school.

“Later we did a mass leafleting session in Archway followed by some speeches with five different schools present.” 

Following picket lines, many teachers went to strike breakfasts to discuss the disputes next steps. And then many went on to rallies and protests in towns and cities such as Birmingham, Derby, Hackney in east London and Maidstone.

Terry said that the union needs a programme of escalating strikes to win a fully-funded, inflation-busting pay deal. “We need to create a crisis for the Tory government,” he said. 

“We need to energise members—especially as our reballot approaches and that’s done by outlining a plan to win. That means decisive escalation—lots of strikes close together.” 

The NEU union members plan to walk out again on Tuesday of next week, with marches in towns and cities across England. 

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