Islington teachers on picket line strike to stop ‘education crisis’

Islington teachers on the picket line today after the NUT staged a walk out

Islington teachers on the picket line today after the NUT staged a walk out - Credit: Archant

Teachers on strike in Islington today say they are taking action to stop a “crisis in the profession”.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson teacher Juliette Henry is striking today

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson teacher Juliette Henry is striking today - Credit: Archant

Thousands of schools are fully or partially closed across the country today after the National Union of Teachers (NUT) staged a walk out over education funding cuts, excessive teacher workloads, and pay and conditions.

In Islington, a handful of teachers formed a picket line outside all-girls Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School (EGA), waving banners and flags.

Their shouts of “pay and conditions!” were rewarded with loud honks from passing traffic in Penton Street.

EGA art and design teacher, Miranda Harris, 50, said that among her chief reasons for striking is government funding cuts, which she argued could lead to a narrower curriculum.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson teacher Miranda Harris is striking today

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson teacher Miranda Harris is striking today - Credit: Archant

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“As teachers, we are not in it for the money, and we are losing money by doing this,” said Ms Harris, of Camden Town, who has been a teacher at the school for 21 years.

“But we are doing it because we are passionate about our young people in this country and that means not just doing English, maths and science in schools, but doing arts as well.”

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EGA’s head of citizenship Juliette Henry, 48, said she is striking to protect the rights of teachers and young people.

“The profession is in crisis, we’ve got a massive problem with teacher recruitment,” said the mum-of-two, of Crossley Street, Barnsbury, who has taught at the school for 12 years.

“I’m striking because we need to protect the rights of workers, no matter what industry they work in: public sector or private sector.

“With the result of last week’s referendum, people need to understand that the rights that they have enjoyed so far are not set in stone for their children. The world that their children live in will be extremely difficult in terms of working conditions.”

In its letter to education secretary Nicky Morgan, the NUT said it is principally striking over perceived funding cuts to schools.

They cite a forecast from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which predicts an 8 per cent funding cut for schools in real terms over the next few years.

The union argues this would lead to larger class sizes of about 35 pupils, fewer subject choices and cuts in support and teaching staff.

Ms Morgan has denied slashing funding, arguing that the schools budget is the highest it has ever been, while acknowledging that the government has had to make “difficult decisions” about public sector pay.

The NUT is also taking industrial action over decisions about pay and conditions being made at school level instead of at a national level.

In addition, it holds concerns about teachers’ pay and excessive workloads.

Speaking to the Today programme this morning, Nicky Morgan said: “[NUT acting general secretary] Kevin Courtney says this strike is popular with teachers. I can tell you it is not popular with school leaders I’ve been talking to and it is certainly not popular with parents for whom this is a huge inconvenience.

“It is also not popular with pupils who are missing out on a day’s education. If Kevin Courtney wants to sort this out then the place to do that is the talks that are already happening, not by taking strike action which puts children’s education at risk.”

The NUT is marching from BBC Broadcasting House in Westminster at 12pm to Parliament Square, where a rally will be staged at 1.30pm.

Tweet @ImogenGBlake with your pictures and views on the strike.

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