Teachers have spoken about a lack of trust, increasing stress and their fears about school curriculums as they took part in a one-day strike.
More than 170 schools across Sussex were closed or partially closed today (July 5) as members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) protested funding cuts, which have left hundreds of schools struggling to balance their budgets, as well as teachers’ pay and conditions.
Rallies were held across the country, including Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings.
Teachers, parents, children and supporters met at Palmeira Square, Brighton, before marching through the city to the Level, where they listened to speeches from union representatives.
Kate Guy, a history teacher at The Weald School, Billingshurst, said: “Our schools are struggling with a lack of funding. Next year there will be even more stress - we will have over 200 new students and the school is not prepared.
“There are teachers working who do not have a qualification. It’s absolutely outrageous.
“Working hours are increasing, putting extra strain on a group of people who are already working as hard as possible.”
The NUT said today’s walk-out was “the first day of strike action”, though no other dates have been set.
The union had issued 210,458 ballot papers to NUT members, 51,530 of which were returned – a turnout of 24.5 per cent. Of those who voted, 91.7 per cent supported strike action.
Andrew Wesby, a design and technology teacher at Oriel High School, Crawley, said: “We’re very concerned about pay and conditions. They are nationally set, but now the government wants each school to set their own. It’s a precursor to privatization.
“We don’t have an education system anymore, we have an exam system, even though there is so much evidence to show that it’s not the best way to assess students’ abilities.”
Mr Wesby said he was worried about cuts to arts subjects in favour of core subjects.
He added: “Our department has been hammered. The arts are very important, in particular design and technology. It’s absolutely insane that students aren’t taught practical skills.”
Kay Walton, a teacher at Hertford Junior School, Brighton, said: “There’s a lack of trust, not from parents but from decision makers. They don’t seem to take into account the opinion of teachers. I’m fed up with all of it.”
Jimmy Lacey and his two children joined the rally to show support for the strikers.
Mr Lacey said: “It seemed like the right thing to do, to come here and add our voices. There is definitely support among parents.
“The government’s short-term education policy is destructive. Education needs to have a long-term view. It’s frustrating for common sense parenting.
“We know how to help our children to develop and succeed- but the government policy is contrary to that. It’s not productive.”
The protestors gathered at the Level at noon to listen to speeches from NUT representatives and councillors.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle, chairman of Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party, said: “Labour says no to privatisation in our schools. We will ensure schools remain ours, not in the hands of big businesses.”
A statement, read out by Councillor Louisa Greenbaum on behalf of Caroline Lucas MP, said: “The government has no real understanding of the challenges faced by teachers.
“Teachers deserve better than this government is giving them and I support a fair deal for everyone working in our schools.”
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