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Camden, Haringey and Barnet teachers strike and march on Parliament

PUBLISHED: 16:59 05 July 2016 | UPDATED: 17:09 05 July 2016

Teachers from Rhyl Primary School and other Camden schools at the march to Parliament on Tuesday. Picture: Richard Barker

Teachers from Rhyl Primary School and other Camden schools at the march to Parliament on Tuesday. Picture: Richard Barker

Archant

From Broadcasting House to Parliament Square, they marched. Thousands of striking teachers waved colourful banners and sang loudly: “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts”.

Highgate Wood School teacher Ed Harlow went on strike on Tuesday. Picture: Jessie Williams Highgate Wood School teacher Ed Harlow went on strike on Tuesday. Picture: Jessie Williams

Today’s walk out over education funding and teachers’ pay and conditions forced a majority of schools in Camden, Haringey and Barnet to entirely or partly close.

Picket lines were formed outside some of the closed schools, before throngs joined the thousands marching through central London with their local NUT branches under large fabric flags.

The NUT said its main reason for calling industrial action was over what it called the “worst cuts in funding since the 1970s”.

Fiona Millar, art teacher at Maria Fidelis School in Somers Town, said she was concerned that slashing funding would impact children with special educational needs most.

The 56-year-old, of Burghley Road, Tufnell Park, said at the central London march today: “We wouldn’t strike unless we had to, it’s not something we enjoy doing.

“We also don’t wan to lose a day’s wages but it’s to raise consciousness about the education white paper, which would be disastrous for the education of our children.”

The NUT and the Institute of Fiscal Studies have forecast that schools will see an 8 per cent real terms cut to spending per pupil by 2020 due to the redistribution of funding set out in the new Education For All government bill.

It claims the cuts would lead to fewer creative subject choices for children, larger class sizes of about 35 pupils, fewer teachers and support staff, and a lack of pay progression for teachers.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has disputed that schools will see a real terms cut, calling the strike “unnecessary and harmful”.

She argues that funding has never been higher, with education spending at £40billion.

She said: “This action is counterproductive – it will harm children’s education, inconvenience parents and damage the profession’s reputatio.”

But the NUT say that while national funding levels have been maintained, schools will see a real terms cut due to inflation, higher National Insurance costs and pensions contributions.

In addition to concerns about funding, excessive teachers’ workloads and pay were also highlighted as concerns.

The NUT is also strongly opposed to government plans to turn more schools into academies.

Academies can hire unqualified teachers, which the union believes results in a poorer standard of education for children.

Ed Harlow, head of music at Highgate Wood School in Muswell Hill, said: “We don’t want to become an academy, we’re a good school. We are bearing the brunt of huge cuts.”

The 37-year-old added: “Teachers are leaving and not being replaced, we’re teaching in larger and larger class sizes all the time, and the government’s interference in education has got to stop, it’s gone too far.”

Some questioned the NUT’s mandate for holding a strike after it was revealed that only 24 per cent of members voted in the ballot. Of those who did vote, nearly 92 per cent supported industrial action.

The strike fully closed 23 schools in Camden, while 18 remained open and 21 were partly closed. In Barnet, 18 schools were fully closed, 43 partially, and 34 remained open.

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