Teachers Struggle to #SaveOurSchools Continues


“Our members fight will not be a quick one & it will not be an easy one. We are currently undertaking the process of reballoting our members to gain a fresh mandate for the autumn term.”

Logan Williams

By Logan Williams, NEU activist

On Wednesday and Friday last week the streets of towns and cities across England were filled with crowds of angry teachers demanding that the government “Pay Up” and save our schools. This new generation of teachers has continued to stand up and demand fundamental change to ensure the protection of the British education system.

Since our campaign began, we have begun to see the true effects of Tory education policies be made public. The National Audit Office has estimated that 700,000 children are being taught in unsafe or ageing school buildings that needed major repairs. Alongside this we have begun to see the effects of the critical underfunding of our schools through schools across the country being forced to utilise emergency reserves and consider limiting the school day. We have also seen class sizes continue to increase, the number of qualified teachers and support staff in classes continue to fall.

But it’s not just classroom budgets which are stretched, provision for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), Early Years, Alternative Provision and Post-16 education are all at breaking point. In addition, mental health services across the country have been so severely underfunded that there is now a mental health crisis in education and a severe lack of resources within schools to meet the needs of pupils.

The government had every opportunity to avert the latest round of national strike action but failed to meet the highly reasonable terms set out by our NEU executive which were namely: to participate in meaningful negotiations and, to publish the “independent” STRB (the pay review body for Education) report. Instead, we saw Sunak declare that he would likely overrule the “independent” pay review body as he believes their recommended 6.5% for education is too high. This is typical of a Conservative government that thinks it can heed recommendations only when it suits them.

The government’s decision to seemingly place its head within the sand and ignore the issues facing our education system has led to much anger within staffrooms across the country, but also much disappointment that the government can continue to undermine an entire profession showing how little they value the future of our students and this country’s education system.

The government is perhaps hoping that members would not choose to engage with this latest round of strikes due to their closeness to the end of the academic year but as I spent another cold morning with comrades on the picket line this week it was clear to see that our spirit and willingness to fight has not been dampened. In fact, we would see in my local area the first picket lines in many schools’ history which were supported by car after car beeping and waving and parents stopping to offer words of encouragement.

Once the picket lines were dismantled for the day, teachers headed to towns and cities throughout the region to make their voices heard. Thousands of NEU members as well as parents with their children marched through their local areas creating a carnival atmosphere. We would see tens of thousands march to Parliament in London and, in my local area record numbers of members joining our rally to ensure that our voices were heard. Our members fight will not be a quick one and it will not be an easy one. We are currently undertaking the process of reballoting our members to gain a fresh mandate for the autumn term but, we are not doing this alone – we have seen members in our sister unions of the NAHT, NASUWT and, ASCL all seek to engage their members to gain mandates for the autumn term.

So, if the government continues to refuse to negotiate on pay and funding, then there will be no choice but for escalation and further disruption to schools and pupils in the new academic year. Keegan can so easily settle this dispute, as educators we are not asking for a lot. Fund our education system properly and pay educators fairly, so that we can give pupils the education that they rightly deserve.  

  • Logan Williams is a striking teacher, an NEU activist and an organiser for Arise Festival. You can follow him on twitter here.
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Featured image: Pay Up! Save Our Schools banner on the national day of action on March 15th, 2023. Photo credit: NEU/Twitter

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