Sunderland teachers gear up for strike action

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TEACHERS across Wearside and County Durham are gearing up for strike action this month.

Members of the National Union of Teachers will be holding street stalls across the region over the coming weeks ahead of strike action on March 26.

Through the stalls, teachers are hoping to share their concerns with the public about the impact of Government policy on local education.

Members of the Durham division of the union have also held a meeting in Chester-le-Street to discuss ways of getting more women involved in union work.

NUT regional secretary, Mike McDonald, who is co-ordinating the street stall campaign, said the union is not just concerned about the impact of changes to teachers’ pay, pension and workload, but also on children’s education.

He said: “We believe the Coalition Government’s policies threaten the standard of education in all our schools and colleges. For instance, academies and free schools are now allowed to employ unqualified teachers.

“This is a big threat to standards of education and we need to ensure that every classroom has a qualified teacher at all times.”

The union leader said councils should be allowed to open new schools where they are needed.

He said: “The Government should make sure changes to the curriculum and exams are positive and planned.

“Rushed changes are stressful for children as well as their teachers and, indeed, their parents.

“The Government should start listening to what teachers and education experts say.”

Mike said morale is plummeting among teachers who feel constantly criticised and within five years of qualifying two out of every five teachers leave the profession. Members of the NUT’s Durham division said it is particularly important to get more women involved in union work, as 76 per cent of the membership is female.

Speaking at the Chester-le-Street meeting, Durham teacher Gill Dowey, said: “Teachers should have the right to teach in an education system that is free from political intervention.

“We must be trusted as qualified teachers to get on and teach.”

The meeting also heard from teachers who were overwhelmed with work, with many working long into the night to mark papers on a regular basis.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Parents will struggle to understand why the NUT is pressing ahead with strikes over the government’s measures to let heads pay good teachers more.

“They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and those talks will begin shortly.”