Teachers’ strike: Day of disruption and what it means for your children

Striking teachers gathered in Lancaster yesterday, as part of the nationwide industrial action over pay, conditions and cuts to funding
Striking teachers gathered in Lancaster yesterday, as part of the nationwide industrial action over pay, conditions and cuts to funding

Schools closed and lessons were disrupted yesterday as teachers walked out on a 24-hour strike.

Here’s our quick and easy guide to the strike, including both sides of the argument, with the facts and no speculation.

Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan MP

Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan MP

Who is striking?

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which is the largest teachers’ union in Europe with more than 300,000 members.

It isn’t the only union for teaching professionals, and has more representation in primary schools than secondary schools.

The NUT said other teaching unions could get involved in the future, with the GMB and Unison support staff unions preparing to ballot its own members.

NUT North West regional officer Peter Middleman

NUT North West regional officer Peter Middleman

Why?

Because 91 per cent of members voting said they were so unhappy about school funding, pay and conditions, that they were willing to take industrial action.

However, fewer than 25 per cent of NUT members voted in the ballot.

Which schools in Blackpool have been affected?

St Nicholas' Church of England Primary School (Pic: Google)

St Nicholas' Church of England Primary School (Pic: Google)

The council asked its local schools for details on closures, with most responding.

Those closed were Boundary Primary, Layton Primary, St Nicholas’ Primary, and Stanley Primary.

Baines’ Endowed closed to some pupils, as did Claremont Community Primary, Revoe Learning Academy, Blackpool Aspire Academy, and Highfield Humanities College.

And St John’s Primary, and St Teresa’s Primary, and Woodlands were open to staff.

Stanley Primary School, Blackpool (Pic: Google)

Stanley Primary School, Blackpool (Pic: Google)

The others were either open as normal or did not respond to the council’s request, town hall officials said.

St John’s Primary, in Church Street, Blackpool, was forced to cancel a Year Six performance – called Au Revoir – at the Grand Theatre last night.

In a letter to one disgruntled parent, head Sandra Hall said: “As a school I believe we have been put in a situation caused by an issue created by someone else, and for which we have no control.

“We have strict child staff ratios in school and events out of school, which we wouldn’t have been able to comply with.”

Anything else?

Yes. The Department for Education was due to inform schools of their pupils’ SATs results yesterday.

Layton Primary School (Pic: Google)

Layton Primary School (Pic: Google)

Obviously that couldn’t happen at schools that were closed for the day, but there was no requirement for schools to tell pupils their results yesterday.

However, only 53 per cent of pupils nationally passed the tests in reading, writing and maths this year, it was revealed.

Pupils who failed will have to resit the tests again at secondary school, though some school leaders have called for the SATs to be scrapped after grades were replaced with a simple pass or fail.

A spokesman for the National Associaton of Headteachers added: “The government has decided that nearly half of pupils have failed at the end of their primary education.

“This is not representative of the quality of their education, nor of the hard work pupils have put in this year.”

Why didn’t I see teachers on strike?

In the north west, the NUT organised rallies in Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, and the Wirral, but none on the Fylde coast. Some may have travelled to take part and make their voice heard, while some may have stayed at home. All of those striking will have lost a day’s pay though.

What is the government saying?

Education secretary Nicky Morgan accused the union of organising a ‘political’ strike, and denied funding has been cut in recent years.

She told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “The schools budget is the highest it has ever been this year at £40billion. It has gone up £4billion since 2011-12.”

Schools minister Nick Gibb said analysis showed seven out of eight schools remained open yesterday, and said: “The industrial action by the NUT is pointless but it is far from inconsequential – it disrupts children’s education, it inconveniences parents and it damages the profession’s reputation in the eyes of the public.”

What about the union’s top dog?

Acting general secretary Kevin Courtney told Ms Morgan she wasn’t being realistic, telling the BBC: “Class 
sizes are going up.

“We are being told of schools where there will be classes of 35 in September.

“Art, dance and drama teachers are being made redundant, or not being replaced when they leave, individual attention for children is going down.

“This is all happening because the Government is not allowing school budgets to keep pace with inflation.”

And locally?

The NUT’s regional secretary for the North West, Peter Middleman, defended the industrial action, which he said comes as a last resort.

“We do recognise there will be disruption caused to parents who will be forced to take time off work for childcare reasons,” he told The Gazette.

“But we think a short-
term level of disruption can help avoid the defamation of our profession and we 
make no apology for that.”

What about our readers?

Michelle Dunn said: “I’ve ended up with both my children with severe and complex disabilities at home for the day with no help.

“And this for a strike which is not going to make any difference because it is not effective as not all unions are on strike. I find this very frustrating and impossible to support.”

Joanne Cross added: Parents that are inconvenienced because of strike action now find themselves preoccupied with finding emergency child care which becomes the main focus rather than why teachers are striking in the first place.

“So striking doesn’t get the support of parents and achieves very little in my opinion.”

And Diane Birkett said: “The teachers are striking because of inadequate funding, which has a negative effect on children and teachers, an increase in class sizes, less subject choices, less books and materials, cuts to school trips, etc.

“The strike isn’t about how much they get paid.”

Labour have had their say too...

The opposition party, which is in the middle of a civil war with leader Jeremy Corbyn facing a revolt, has accused Nicky Morgan of spending more time helping Michael Gove run for Tory leader than securing the best deal to educate the nation’s children.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner urged ministers to end the ‘uncertainty’ surrounding pay and conditions for teachers.

She added: “The working conditions of our teachers are the learning conditions of our children and they deserve the very best.”

Boundary Primary School in Grange Park (Pic: Google)

Boundary Primary School in Grange Park (Pic: Google)