July 23 2014 Latest news:
Emma Youle, News editor
Thursday, July 10, 2014
More than 40 schools across Camden were closed or partially closed today as teachers joined a national day of strike action.
Children across the borough woke up to disruption as teachers took to the picket lines to stage a one-day walk out in an ongoing row over pay, pensions and working conditions.
Five of Camden’s secondary schools were completely closed - Acland Burghley, Hampstead, Haverstock, Parliament Hill and William Ellis - while Camden School for Girls, Maria Fidelis and La Sante Union all reported partial disruption.
In total 32 of the borough’s schools were closed and 13 partly closed by strike action, with only 14 remaining open as usual.
Firefighters and other public sector workers also walked out, leading to some disruption of council services.
Camden Council confirmed 359 members of staff were absent today, but 90 per cent of services were open and unaffected while 8.3 per cent were partially closed.
Some of the borough’s libraries were expected to be closed and transport to day centres for the elderly to be disrupted.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has been in negotiation with the government over members’ working hours and plans for performance-related pay, which will see wages linked to performance in the classroom and reforms which the union says will mean teachers working longer and receiving less when they retire.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower, said: “Despite months in talks with government officials, the real issues of our dispute over pay, pensions and conditions of service have not been addressed.
“Teacher morale is at a low ebb. Thousands of good, experienced teachers are leaving or considering leaving their job and a teacher shortage crisis is looming.
“Ofsted itself says that two in five teachers are leaving the profession in their first five years. This is a very serious state of affairs and is a direct result of this government’s policies.”
The strike action was condemned by the Department for Education (DfE), which said the move disrupted pupils’ education and damaged the reputation of the teaching profession.
Education secretary Michael Gove said: “Of course, any change to the status quo is difficult. Of course, people can be more frightened of what might be lost than inspired by what might be gained.
“But for years, for decades, our status quo has simply not been good enough. We can’t and we mustn’t keep going backwards - and failing the poorest above all.”
Teachers were joined by other public sector workers at a demonstration rally outside Camden Town Hall today.
Camden UNISON secretary George Binette said: “This strike isn’t just about our local government pay claim.
“This day of action is a more generalised protest against austerity, a regime of cuts and still more privatisation of public services.
“In Camden, we appear to be faced with demands for a further £70 million in council-wide cuts over the next four or so years.
“These would inevitably mean hundreds of job losses and the prospect of still more drastic cuts to services.”
A council spokesman said: “Camden Council believes that public sector workers deserve the right to fair pay and was one of the first in London to be accredited as a London Living Wage employer.
“No member of staff employed by the council is paid less than the London Living Wage, including those paid at an hourly rate or fixed salary.
“In addition to ensuring that our employees are paid a decent wage we have also taken additional steps to be an employer of choice by becoming the first accredited Timewise Council providing access for people, particularly women, to quality part-time employment.”