Striking teachers blame industrial action on Education Secretary Michael Gove (From The Northern Echo)
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Striking teachers blame industrial action on Education Secretary Michael Gove
THOUSANDS of teachers went on strike across the North-East today. Education Editor Barry Nelson reports from the joint NASUWT-NUT rally in Durham City, Darlington Chief Reporter Andy Walker listened to the views of a frontline teacher from the town
BLOWING whistles and waving union flags, more than a thousand striking teachers marched through Durham today to register their hostility at Education Sectetary Michael Gove's policies.
Members of the two main teaching unions - the NUT and NASUWT - made their way through the centre of the city to a rally at the Durham Students Union.
The one-day strike, part of a rolling programme of industrial action, meant many North-East schools were either closed or partially closed.
County Durham was the hardest hit with virtually all schools affected.
With the main hall brimming over and hundreds watching the speeches on TV monitors or listening outside, they heard the general secretary of the NASUWT, Chris Keates, give an uncompromising message of defiance to the Government.
To cheers and applause, Ms Keates said: "Mr Gove will seek to denigrate you, but let's be clear, NASUWT and NUT members are not the ones damaging children's education.
"The real damage is being done by the soulless policies of this unelected and autocratic Government which is experimenting with the life chances of our young people."
She accused the Education Secretary of consistently refusing to meet union negotiators to discuss any of the contentious issues between them - which include pay, working conditions and controversial policies, such as performance-related pay for teachers and the expansion in academies and free schools.
Ms Keates said: "Attacks on your pay and working conditions are part of a deliberate strategy to present our education service as broken and failing because its part of the masterplan to privatise our public education service."
The truth - she said - was that the UK had "a world-class education system" and the unions were defending the best interests of children.
One of the marchers, Lee Williscroft-Ferris, a teacher at Belmont Community School, near Durham City said: "We are not against rigour, but we feel that, as classroom teachers, we are in the best position regarding curriculum changes. We want the Government to start listening to us."
The response of passers by was mixed. One young man said he thought it was "a disgrace" that teachers were striking, while an elderly gent said they had his "complete sympathy."
Meanwhile, the Department for Education insisted that only 27 per cent of schools in the targeted strike areas of the North-East and Cumbria, London, South-East and South-West were closed.
A spokesman added: "The NUT and NASUWT have tried to create as much disruption for pupils and parents today as possible. In spite of this, thanks to many hard-working teachers and heads, only around a quarter of schools in the targeted regions were closed today.
"It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are striking over the Government's measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more.
"All strikes do is disrupt parents' lives, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession."
The spokesman said Mr Gove had offered to meet with the unions "as many times as would be useful to them".
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