Secondary school teachers on the picket line demanded higher pay rises, claiming that they have been “pushed to their absolute limit.”

More than 100,000 teachers are expected to strike in England and Wales today (February 1), including those at Fortismere School in the heart of Muswell Hill.

The mixed secondary school is shut to all students other than vulnerable children for the day, as staff who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) walk out over a pay dispute with the Government.

READ MORE: Live updates: Teachers strike affecting schools across north London

Most state-school teachers received a pay rise of 5% in 2022, but the NEU is demanding that wages outpace inflation.

In November, the ONS said that inflation (CPI) stood at 10.7%. This means that the current pay settlement for teachers is a cut in real-terms.

Ham & High: Kathryn Cunningham (left), English teacher and Rebecca Sheldon (right), Geography teacherKathryn Cunningham (left), English teacher and Rebecca Sheldon (right), Geography teacher (Image: Alex Marsh)

Kathyrn Cunningham, an English teacher at Fortismere School since 2001, claimed that the lack of funding was “unsustainable” and that schools were in “a really desperate situation.”

She said: “I’m on strike today because I’ve never known such a crisis in education.

“I am shocked by how each year things are eked away and there is less money. The first people to go are support staff and class sizes get bigger. It’s unsustainable.

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“We think they need to find the money so that schools are fully funded.”

She pointed to the fact that almost a third of teachers leave the profession within five years because of the enormous pressure they are currently put under.

One newly-qualified teacher at the picket line in Tetherdown was 22-year-old Jessica Duggan.

She has taught social sciences at Fortismere School for the past five months, and claimed that teachers starting in their careers often struggle with the high workload when pay is so low.

Ham & High: Newly-qualified Jessica Duggan teaches social sciences Newly-qualified Jessica Duggan teaches social sciences (Image: Alex Marsh)

Jessica said: “The workload is really high and the expectations put on early career teachers are immense.

“This is a long-term career for me. I don’t want to have to retrain, I don’t want to have to leave the profession. I want to have job security and funding for the future of my students and my career.”

Bill Kenny, head of Year 13 at the school, claimed that funding problems have built up over the years, but now “something has to change”.

He said: “It’s really straightforward – teachers work really, really hard and everyone’s pushed to their absolute limit. It feels like there’s nothing left to give.

“It’s not a recent thing, this has been going on for more than ten years now and the last thing that teachers want to do is strike.

“But we are at the point now where something has to change.”

Maths teacher and NEU rep Greg McGuinness added that the next strike date is scheduled for March 2, but that the union is adamant that there is no need for strike action if the Government agrees to a reasonable pay deal for staff.

Ham & High: NEU rep Greg McGuinness outside Fortismere SchoolNEU rep Greg McGuinness outside Fortismere School (Image: Alex Marsh)

He said 17 other picket lines were in place outside schools across Haringey. 

Earlier today, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said she was “disappointed” the NEU strike was going ahead.

She told Times Radio: “I am disappointed that it has come to this, that the unions have made this decision.

“It is not a last resort. We are still in discussions.”

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