Teachers strike and schools close across Camden

TEACHERS and students in Camden maintained the momentum of coordinated action against government spending cuts by going on strike.

Schools across the borough closed yesterday as hundreds of NUT members joined the union protest against the council’s decision to axe some education services.

Andrew Baisley, Camden’s NUT branch secretary, said: “George Osborne promised education would be secure during the comprehensive spending review. That was a lie. The massive chunk taken out of the education budget by Camden Council will affect teachers, students and especially the most vulnerable people in the classroom.”

Today’s strike focused on jobs being lost as a result of the cuts, including central service specialists who support school teachers and special needs students.

Mr Baisley said: “We are striking today to protect the essential support offered to teachers by local authority specialists. Camden has some of the best schools in the country but they are only as strong as the support that’s around them.”

The effect of the cuts means Camden schools will no longer have access to what is known as central services which offer support to special needs students in mainstream schools. This includes the cognition and learning service and school action plus.

One dyslexia and inclusion specialist whose job is going predicts the council’s decision will result in devastating consequences.

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She said: “This is about protecting equal opportunities for all. Central service providers give one on one support to students with special needs.

“Now, school teachers will be expected to do the impossible task of providing this kind of support whilst teaching a class of 30 other students.”

Students from Acland Burghley School were also out in force. Ruby Hirsch, a sixth former and key member of the student’s movement against the government cuts, said: “It’s essential that all students stand up and show solidarity with the teachers. Everyone should be defending what we have.”

Wendy Jones, an English teacher at Parliament Hill, said: “The work of central service specialists is absolutely essential. They are the people who allow us to do our job.

“Without them class sizes will increase and it will be impossible to deliver the kind of personalised learning that this government has said is so essential.”

Aaron Hayden, a primary school teacher, agreed. He said: “I work in a school in the middle of a high rise estate where many of the children there have learning difficulties and literacy problems arising from English being their second language. They rely on central service support.

“I simply cannot provide this as a teacher, I haven’t been trained to do so, but that’s what the council is now asking.”

Prior the today’s events the council voiced its concerns to the NUT that strike action would damage the education of the students in the borough.

However, Mr Baisley answered them at the union’s headquarters this morning stating: “If a one day strike is going to damage the students’ education what do they think taking money from the education budget will do?”

A spokeswoman for Camden Council said: “The council recognises that many will be concerned about the savings the council needs to make in the light of the reductions in government funding to the council and that teachers amongst others will want to make their feelings known. However, the Council has made clear to the union that it is very unhappy that the union is taking a different approach to strikes in voluntary aided schools and community schools that has led to the strike being called off in voluntary aided schools but not in community schools. The council sees no reason for this approach and believes that it is unnecessarily divisive.”