The second strike day in a month shows that teachers are not going to take Gove's neoliberal restructuring of the education sector lying down
Photos by Anne Koerber
“I think it's really important that Gove understands that we're unhappy”, says a pre-school teacher in her mid-30s. That's probably a bit of an understatement, if the vociferous crowd gathered in front of the Department for Education is anything to go by.
“Get Gove out!” they shouted among the deafening noise of whistles and boos. Up to 15,000 people marched through central London today, many with their children, while around 3,500 schools remained closed in the capital and the south-east as well as the north-east and the south-west of England. Rallies took place in Bristol, Durham and London, and smaller events were held in other parts of the country.
It was the second strike day by members of the teaching unions NUT and NASUWT, who between them represent more than 90 percent of teachers in England. In the east of England, Yorkshire and Humberside and the Midlands, teachers already held strikes on 1 October.
The mood at the London march was feisty and defiant, demonstrating just how frustrated teachers are with the policies of education secretary Michael Gove.
“They're trying to push us further than our job description. Basically, we have to double our workload for the same price”, says the pre-school teacher, who works with kids aged 4 and 5. She describes her job as very physical and emotionally draining. An increase in the pension age to 68, as Gove plans, is just not practical. Her friend, a special-needs teacher, agrees. She says the government's real intention is to get people to retire early and lose their full pension.
“What they are trying to do is for people to retire on the cheap.”
David Cameron says that the strike is an inconvenience for the parents and “not good for pupils' education”, but the teachers insist that they do not take the decision to go on strike lightly and have been forced to do so because of Gove's unwillingness to negotiate with them.
“We are all in the job because we love working with children, and they take advantage of that”, says the special-needs teacher. In addition to the increased workload and the changes in teachers' pensions – basically asking them to work longer, pay more into their pension pot and receive less – Gove wants to cut their holidays, introduce performance-related pay, and end automatic pay rises.
The second strike day in a month shows that teachers are not going to take this neoliberal restructuring of the education sector lying down.
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