Striking teachers warn of more action

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Towering ideas as Southsea school pupils take on challenge

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TEACHERS out on strike issued the stark warning – there could be more to come.

About 100 members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and their supporters gathered in Portsmouth city centre to listen to protest speeches, wave placards and march through the city centre.

Striking teachers in Portsmouth city centre.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (14622-1)

Striking teachers in Portsmouth city centre.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (14622-1)

The strike forced schools to shut their doors or cancel classes across the Portsmouth area.

Now Amanda Martin, secretary of the Portsmouth branch of the NUT, says more strikes could follow if the government fails to stop its programme of changes to the school system.

Ms Martin called on Education Secretary Michael Gove to sit down with teacher and address their concerns.

She said: ‘Strikes seem to be the only thing he listens to.’

Ms Martin said teachers faced excessive workloads and bureaucracy as well as changes to pensions.

She said: ‘Teachers are working 60 hours a week.

‘They want to extend our working age to 68 and they’re making a mess of our education system.

‘If I could sit down with Michael Gove, I’d ask him to ensure that every classroom had a qualified teacher, that the curriculums were well thought out, that the schools were funded well.

‘Every school deserves the same funding.

‘Private schools and state schools shouldn’t be pitched against each other.

‘I’d ask him to pull out privatisation of academies where schools are making profits, and I’d ask him to sit down and have a look at the workload and the campaign that we’re running.’

Portsmouth Trades Council president John Woods called for workers in other sectors to unite with teachers and go on strike together.

He said: ‘It’s not just the teachers that are suffering in the public sector.

‘The strike is about teaching, workloads, pensions and pay, but actually in local government, the health service and many areas of the public sector and the private sector, people are suffering.

‘We need to strike together and put maximum pressure on this government.’

Phillippa Irving, a teacher at Penhale Infant School in Fratton, said: ‘I’m just trying to do what’s right for the five-year-olds in my class and I believe the changes in education will not benefit them.’

And teacher Caroline Firbank, of Gomer Junior School in Gosport, said she wasn’t striking because of worsening pay conditions, but because of increased workload.

She said: ‘Mr Gove wants us to have longer days and shorter holidays.

‘He keeps on comparing us to Singapore and Norway but they’re different cultures and you can’t compare them to us. I’m sure children wouldn’t like to be stuck in school from 8am to 6pm, either.’

But Southsea resident Lorna Packer said she objected to the action.

She said: ‘I can see their point of view but I can’t see the benefits of striking – the children have to come first.

‘The teachers should negotiate without having to strike.

‘There’s too much bickering. I’m glad there are still some teachers who are willing to put the children first.’

The NASUWT, the UK’s largest teachers’ union, did not take part in the strike.

NASUWT Portsmouth secretary Sion Reynolds said: ‘We’re holding fire, really.’

Additional reporting by

Abi Bashorun and Kate Douglas