Schools across Leicestershire have been forced to close their doors to pupils today, as thousands of teachers and school support staff walk out in a dispute over pay.
Today (Wednesday, February 1), thousands of members of the National Education Union (NEU) went on strike, claiming that the cost of living and heavy workloads are driving them out of the job they love.
Today’s teacher strikes comes on the biggest day of industrial action for the UK in over a decade, with train drivers, civil servants, bus drivers and security guards all joining in on a mass walk out over pay.
“The Government cannot expect strikes to be averted unless it brings forward concrete proposals for increasing pay,” said Nick Raine, Senior Regional Officer for the National Education Union in the East Midlands.
“Experienced teachers have seen a 23 per cent real terms pay cut since 2010. Given the current cost-of-living crisis and rising inflation, this is clearly an unsustainable situation for our members.
“Our members are taking a stand today for a fully funded, above-inflation pay rise, because the profession cannot go on like this,” he added.
“Parents know the consequences of persistent underfunding, both for their school/college and for their child. This strike should not be necessary, and we regret the disruption caused to parents and pupils, but our aims are in the interests of everyone in the education community.”
A record number of NEU picket lines are taking place across Leicestershire throughout today.
Earlier, hundreds took part in a march across Leicester, starting from Jubilee Square.
One of those was Tom Barker, who works at Ashfield Academy in Leicester.
“We don’t want to take strike action – our profession is educating and caring for students. The last thing we want to do is to put them at risk but the truth is that they’re already at risk,” he told the Leicester Times.
“The profession and the services have been driven down to a point where the students are not getting what they need and that’s why I think it’s important that people are making a stand now.”
“I’d rather be at school teaching my year 11s but the Government aren’t listening to us so we need to do this, added Emma Cooksey, a teacher at Bosworth Academy.
“This is a real last resort and I’m hoping that we don’t need to strike again. We have four days planned, this is the first day, hopefully we don’t even need to get to the second day and the Government can come to some sort of resolution.”
Teachers are also planning to take strike action on March 1, March 15 and 16.
The Department for Education has criticised today’s action as “highly damaging to children’s education”, particularly given the disruption of the pandemic.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has previously called the teachers strikes “deeply disappointing”, and claimed that the government has met teaching unions’ requests for an extra £2 billion in school funding in England.