Southend teachers 'at crisis point' as they form picket lines in pay row strikes

Southend teachers 'at crisis point' as they form picket lines in pay row strikes <i>(Image: newsquest/PA/Google)</i>
Southend teachers 'at crisis point' as they form picket lines in pay row strikes (Image: newsquest/PA/Google)

STRIKING teachers are at “crisis point” due to increasing workloads and “valued” colleagues leaving the profession, they have insisted as they down tools and walk out of classrooms.

Thousands of teachers are set to walk out across south Essex today in a row over pay and funding.

The strike is being taken by teachers across the country, with thousands set to walk out the classroom on February 1, March 1, 15 and 16.

Southend Trade Unions Council is holding a rally at the Odeon in Southend from noon and there will be a large picket line at Chase High School, in Prittlewell Chase, Westcliff.

John McDonnell, teacher at Chase High School, said: “No teacher wants to strike but our profession has been under attack for the last 12 years. Our workload has increased, our pay has decreased and we have seen valued colleagues leave the profession.

“The Government tries to gaslight us about Covid but we worked through both lockdowns and give up holidays to support our students in their exams. We’ve waited for 12 years for this government to get things right and for those 12 years, they haven’t even met their own targets for recruitment of new teachers.

“Like nurses, we are at a crisis point. We appreciate that Wednesday’s action causes an inconvenience for our students and their parents but they are not being failed by us. They are being failed by the Government who continue to underfund education, mismanage teachers and fail students.”

The action comes as MPs backed the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill aimed at enforcing minimum service levels for some sectors during strikes.

Under the bill, some employees in the NHS, transport, education, fire and rescue, border security and nuclear decommissioning would be required to work during industrial action - and could be sacked if they refuse.

The Bill passed by 315 votes to 246 but will face further scrutiny in the House of Lords before it becomes law.

Teresa Noble, head of art at Chase High School, said: “We are taking industrial action because we feel that education has reached crisis point.

“We do not make this decision lightly and none of us want to strike and lose a day’s pay. However we have seen real a term pay cut over the past decade and like the rest of the country, we are struggling to make our pay cover the rise in inflation and cost of living.

“Teachers feel undervalued and stretched. “We have a major issue with retention and recruitment and teaching is not viewed as inviting or worth pursuing.

“The impact then is there are not enough of us to go round which means larger class sizes, students being taught by non-specialists and heavier workload. We seek a corrective funded pay rise that is entirely affordable if the government chooses.”

Southchurch High School will only open to Year 10 and Year 11 pupils preparing for exams, as well as vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

Shoebury High School will only open to 93 Year 11 pupils sitting their BTEC Digital Information Technology exam and Year 13 pupils.

Murray Sackwild, National Education Union Essex Branch Secretary, said: “There are over 4000 members across South Essex, Southend & Thurrock. Having broken the Govt’s Ballot Threshold, it’s a fair estimate to assume that over 2500 will be on strike, possibly more.

“We were really hoping that Gillian Keegan would have something positive to offer yesterday - but absolutely nothing. In the hope of generating an Essex response I emailed all MPs in Essex last week. Not a single one has replied. There is clearly little interest in discussion or negotiation to support our schools and educators.