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Teachers go on strike to protest about pay

Driffield School was closed for the majority of pupils as teachers held their first day of strike action, in a dispute over pay.

Members of the National Education Union left their classrooms and held picket lines outside schools, before heading to Beverley for a demonstration and march through the town centre.

NEU district secretary Damien Walenta, an English teacher at Driffield School, led his colleagues as they waved flags and banners.

NEU joint secretary for East Yorkshire, Steve Scott, said: “We were really impressed with the turnout. By our rough calculations, we had just under 250 teachers joining us in Beverley.

“We had a large contingent from Driffield School, the Bridlington schools and obviously the Beverley schools, because we were marching in Beverley.

“But we had teachers from all over the East Riding. Our membership is about 60% primary school teachers, but whether this was reflected in the numbers there, we don’t know.”

Mr Scott said the response from the public had been broadly positive.

He said: “You never know how it’s going to go, but at the demonstration, on the march and on social media, most of the people engaging with us have done so in a positive way.

“Teachers are wanting a pay rise to make up for the last 15 years of real terms pay cuts. But most importantly to our members, our core message is that the pay rise needs to be funded by the government.

“Currently, it is coming out of school budgets, which are already overstretched, and it means schools will be left with not enough glue sticks, not enough books, or more likely redundancies for teaching assistants.”

Mr Scott said that teachers understood the frustrations of some parents, who had to find childcare or take time off work themselves because their children’s school had closed for the day.

“We apologised for the disruption caused but explained that their children’s education is being disrupted every day.

“One in eight children are being taught maths by someone who doesn’t have an A-Level in maths. We know there are classes who haven’t had a teacher this year, just supplies and covers.

“Every day, kids are having their education damaged, so we feel that one day of action to safeguard their education is justified.”

Teachers from the Driffield area joined 100,000 others across England and Wales as part of a walkout by members of the National Education Union (NEU).

Driffield School & Sixth Form was closed to the majority of students throughout the day, with only those in Years 11 and 13 expected to attend school as their preparations for GCSE and A-level examinations continue.

Students in Years 7 to 10 completed online work at home.

Hutton Cranswick Community Primary School closed two of its classes, however, most other schools in the Wolds Weekly area were largely unaffected by the strikes.

“Today (1st February), teachers in schools and sixth form college in England and Wales and support staff in Wales schools, took strike action in pursuit of a fully-funded, above inflation pay rise,” said Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union.

“The government has short-changed them for over a decade, with significant real-terms cuts to pay and persistently unfunded rises which schools cannot afford.

“The legacy is all too clear, with schools having to cut services to the bone and a recruitment and retention crisis that is a detriment to children’s education every single day.

“One day’s disruption through strike action is dwarfed by the long-term damage caused by government policy on education funding, on workload, and on pay.

“Gillian Keegan, in her continued refusal to take on board the concerns of teachers and support staff, is letting this generation of children down.

“The government needs to invest in education. You can’t have decent growth in an economy if you don’t invest in education, if you don’t invest in public services.

“The government has got to get to grips with that. Our own research tells us that around 85 per cent of schools in England and Wales were affected by our strike action today.

“This is no cause for celebration, but an indication of the level of anger amongst our members.

“It is a huge statement from a determined membership who smashed through the government’s thresholds that were only ever designed to prevent strike action happening at all.

“Today, we put the education secretary on notice. She has until our next strike day for England, 28th February, to change her stance.

“NEU members do not want to go on strike again. They want constructive talks that deal directly with the long-standing concerns they experience in their schools and colleges every day.

“So that they can get back to doing what they do best, working with pupils in the classroom.

“However, be in no doubt that our members will do whatever it takes to stand up for education, including further strike action, if Gillian Keegan still fails to step up with concrete and meaningful proposals.”

This was the first action taken by teachers nationally since 2016.

Although headteachers will try and keep as many classes open to children as possible, it is unlikely to be the end of the disruption for parents in Driffield and the Wolds, with future strikes planned in late February and in March.

Industrial action is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 15th and 16th March, whilst there will also be a regional walkout for Yorkshire and the Humber on Tuesday 28th February.

The NEU is the UK’s largest education union and the strikes affected 23,400 schools.

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