Downing Street has warned the public that the co-ordinated strikes will cause “significant disruption”, as almost half a million public sector workers walkout.
Teachers in London are gathering outside school gates, and marching to Parliament Square today, due to a co-ordinated strike action proposed by the National Education Union (NEU). The Union has cited pay falling one fifth in real terms since 2010, and an increased workload causing poor working conditions as the main reasons for the strike. These issues fall against the wider backdrop of the cost of living crisis that the UK is currently experiencing, with soaring energy bills and increased taxes.
At the protest today, I spoke to teaching assistants on strike from an East London primary school, who shared their anguish at the situation, “the last thing we want to do is strike” Jackie (not her real name) told me this morning. “We are expected to do more and more and feel less valued with each passing day” she explained, adding “we love this job, but when you are underpaid other professions become more tempting”.
The working conditions and pay situation have combined to create a shortage of staff, with Kevin Courtney – the Joint General Secretary of the NEU, claiming that vital support staff, such as special needs assistants are “leaving schools to work in supermarkets”, and that Primary school classes face a “succession of temporary teachers”, which all “leaves children without support”.
23,000 schools across England and Wales were expectedly affected by todays industrial action, with Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan expressing frustration at the situation labelling the strikes “hugely disappointing”, claiming they will have a “significant impact on children’s education”.
Click here for a map of todays strikes and how they may affect your local school…
This comes after last ditch talks between union leaders and Keegan failed yesterday, with the NEU explaining the Government had “squandered” the opportunity to find a solution. Keegan came under fire this morning, when she appeared on Kay Burley’s show on Sky News wearing a Rolex watch worth £10,000, whilst calling for teachers to be “realistic” over their pay demands…
Additional strikes are also planned on March 2nd, 15th and 16th, with the dispute looking far from over.