ON the day that thousands of schools were disrupted by strike action, teachers’ leaders warned that more strikes may follow unless Education Secretary Michael Gove addresses their concerns.
In the North-East, about 1,000 striking teachers, waving banners and blowing whistles, attended a rally in the centre of Newcastle today (Wednesday, March 26) as hundreds of thousands of children across England had their education disrupted by a national strike by the National Union of Teachers (NUT).
Last October the NUT joined forces with the other main teaching union, the NASUWT, but this time the NUT acted alone.
Mike McDonald, Northern regional secretary of the NUT, told the Newcastle rally: “Our message to Michael Gove is that we are standing up for education. We won’t be beaten down and if more strikes are what it takes, then so be it.”
Mr McDonald said NUT members regretted having to take strike action in a long-running dispute over pay, conditions and pensions and blamed the Education Secretary for the disruption caused.
Sunderland teacher and past president of the NUT, Marilyn Harrop, told the rally: “It really should not be necessary in the 21st century to go on strike but, unfortunately, Michael Gove will not listen.”
She accused the Education Secretary of “single-handedly dismantling state education” and said he was mounting “the biggest attack on working class aspirations for decades".
The former NUT president said Mr Gove had increased the workload and bureaucracy for teachers to such an extent that they were “exhausted” before they even got in front of a class.
In the North-East one of the worst hit areas was County Durham where 58 schools were fully or partially closed. In North Yorkshire the NUT strike forced 24 schools to close for the day and partially closed another 46. In Darlington five schools closed and 15 were partially closed.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “The message we are getting is that the action is well-supported.”
The action has been condemned by the Department for Education (DfE), which says that it has disrupted parents' lives and damage children's education.
A DfEspokesman said: “ They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and talks have been taking place weekly.
"Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is taking action that will disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession.”
As members began the walkout, there were indications that relations between the NUT and fellow teaching union the NASUWT - which together have been running a joint campaign of industrial action - have become strained.
Both unions took part in a series of regional strikes in the autumn term, but the NASUWT decided not to take part in today's national action.
A leaked memo signed by NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates claims that some members have faced threats, insults and intimidation from members of the NUT.