Reporting by Jack Simpsons, Chiara Rimella & Chris Dillon
Hundreds of pupils stayed at home today as dozens of schools throughout the Eastlondonlines area closed after teachers took strike action.
The two largest teacher’s unions, the NUT and the NAS/UWT, staged the industrial action against the reform of the national pay system, Education Secretary Michael Gove’s plans to introduce a longer school day and year and increasing the retirement age.
The unions set up pickets outside the closed schools around the area before heading to a rally in central London.
Martin Powell Davies, secretary of the NUT in Lewisham and candidate for NUT vice-president, said: “The turnout exceeded all expectations we had a hall booked for a rally of 1000 which we assumed we would fill but we had no idea that another 15,000 teachers would be left outside.
“It was an absolutely huge turnout, very young, very determined. Teachers who wanted to come out on the day to make absolutely clear to Michael Gove that we are not going to accept attacks on teachers and education.”
On a local level, NUT representatives and teachers were clear to send a message outside their schools.
At a picket line at the front of Bsix Sixth Form in Clapton, Jamie Duff, press and publicity officer for Hackney NUT said: “This government is intent on a creeping privatisation programme and for that to happen they have to deregulate our terms and conditions so that is why they’re attacking our pay, pensions and workload.”
Hackney, Enda Finley, head of geography at the school said: “Gove needs to start listening – education cuts are not what the public wants.”
In Lewisham, strike action has led to 37 closing for the day, 29 partially closing and only 7 staying open.
Alex Cooper, a teacher from Deptford Park Primary School said: “The government’s plans are definitely something that’s a big deal, I think it’s quite a major change as well.”
“What the Tories are trying to do is quite radical, they’re changing something that’s been set in stone for years and years.”
Tower Hamlets council expected teachers from 50 out of 90 council run schools to join the industrial action.
Paul McGarr, NUT representative for Langdon Park School, Tower Hamlets said: “Gove is wrecking education is on a “mission to destroy it.”
Lennox Christie, NASUWT representative for Langdon Park School said: “Gove sees children as statistics for profit rather than minds for tomorrow.”
But not all were convinced that striking was the right path.
Tim Pollard, Conservative Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Learning in Croydon said: “I regret very much that teachers are taking this action and I think they should think long and hard about whether it is actually sensible to disrupt pupil’s education in this way over this matter.
In response to a question about upcoming plans for the teacher’s unions, Davies said: “What we have to do now, we said we would do, we said we would have a united national strike before Christmas and now we’ve got to agree that date and do the same as we did today across the country.”