“ENOUGH is enough.”
That was the message from more than 500 teachers marching through the streets of Durham in protest of “Michael Gove’s unwillingness to co-operate.”
As many as 85 per cent of schools across the region were closed as part of today’s strike as the NUT and NASUWT members came together in a show of solidarity against performance-related pay, increasing workload and changes to pension schemes.
Sarah Lake, Sunderland branch secretary of the NUT, said the strike was a last resort to make education secretary Michael Gove hear teachers’ complaints.
“We have tried negotiating,” she said.
“He does meet with unions but he doesn’t listen, and he doesn’t make any sort of compromise for our demands.
“It is not just one issue that we are negotiating with, it’s all of them – concerns over what’s driving changes to the curriculum and exam changes – we are fighting for our children’s interests and education.”
She added: “To parents who disagree with this strike I say do you want your child taught in a class of 30 pupils by a teacher who is 68 years old?
“Are you happy for your child to be taught by an unqualified teacher?”
Protestors said the need for better working conditions is vital to prevent them leaving the profession, and creating a shortage of teachers.
David Hardman, PE teacher at Hetton Comprehensive school, said: “I’ve thought about moving abroad to work.
“I love teaching, but I don’t want to have to put up with all the constant changes and degrading of teachers.
“Teachers already work about 80 hours a week, and Gove’s said that he wants to get rid of what’s in our contracts so we can be working maybe six or seven days a week, and that’s OK because it’s under EU law.”
Speakers at the Durham event included Sunderland school representative for the NUT, Chris McHugh.
“The difficulty of making cuts to teachers’ pay and driving down pay is that it is only going to impact on the children we teach,” he said.
“If you want a professional, high profile, and rigorous teaching profession, then teachers need to be rewarded with decent pay and good terms and conditions.”
Sunderland teacher and past president of the NUT, Marilyn Harrop, gave the opening address.
She said government policies have brought unions work together to prepare to more action.
“We are determined to maintain this unity,” she said.
“We will be reaching out to parents and the public, and other public sector workers faced with similar attacks, and we will be reaching out to teachers across England and Wales. Mr Gove, watch this space.”
Strike action was also taken in London, Cumbria, the South East and South West and saw more than 3,000 shut or partially close.