Thousands of teachers in schools across Devon are again be taking strike action again today (Thursday February 2).
Schools could be disrupted in West Devon as National Education Union (NEU) members strike for the second time this year in their dispute with the government. One picket line demonstrated outside Okehampton College earlier this morning, waving banners and rallying support from passers-by in support of their campaign for a better pay rise and increased funding for schools.
The action is aimed at pressuring the Government into negotiating over the NEU claim that low pay is causing a shortage of staff in most schools in the region by hampering recruitment and retention. This is exacerbated by the inadequate funding settlement for school budgets, the union adds.
This is due to be followed by a march and rally in Plymouth, where members will assemble and line up from 11am at Jigsaw Gardens. The march will leave at 11.30am and proceed through the city centre to Plymouth Guildhall. The rally will start at 12.30pm and run for approximately an hour. Speakers will be striking members of the NEU.
Mike Gurney, teacher and NEU representative at Okehampton College, said: 'I talk to schools across Devon and most have shortages of staff, head teachers cannot fill roles because the profession is not attracting enough newly-qualified teachers and not retaining experienced staff. Exam classes are being being taught by non-specialists and schools are struggling day in and day out to staff classes. Staff have been offered a 3 per cent rise, but this does not come any where near matching the cost of living, while school budgets agreed last year are obviously inadequate to meet the needs of heads and their students.'
He said the union was striking again because the government had not persuaded the union it was being serious about negotiating because it had not made a realistic offer. He also appealed to parents for their understanding over any disruption to their lives: 'I would like to apologise to parents and pupils across Devon whose schools are disrupted as result of today’s action, which is the direct responsibility of the Government.
'The public needs to appreciate that schools are in crisis and pupils’ education is suffering every day because of the government's failure to tackle pay and teacher recruitment in schools.
'We cannot go on like this. The government needs to sit down and talk properly to its teachers about resolving these issues and they need to do this as a matter of urgency so we can all get back to what we do best, which is teaching in the classroom.'