VIDEO: Teachers pledge strike action at Exeter rally over 'crisis in education'
TEACHERS in Exeter say they have no option but to go on strike over what they have described as a “crisis in education.”
An estimated 300 people attended a teacher’s rally Exeter earlier today to express their anger over changes to pay and conditions amid fears that the government's attack on education is damaging morale.
They packed into Sidwell Street Methodist church to hear rousing speeches from union officials, teachers, governors and a pupil about the impact recent and proposed changes are having on local schools and colleges.
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Among the issues raised were performance related pay, the setting up of academies and state funded but privately controlled free schools
And the message to secretary of state for education Michael Gove was clear – listen to our fears or we will go on strike.
Mike Gurney, teacher at Okehampton College who lives in Exeter, said: “We are trying to rally to show there is a crisis in education and unfortunately we seem to have a government who is now into attacking teachers and giving governors, pupils and students a hard time. In primary schools now they are now testing six year olds judging whether they are a success or failure.
“For us they are now bringing in performance related pay, which is ludicrous. It is all based around an appraisal rather than trying to improve teaching. If you don’t reach your targets, you don’t get a pay rise. But there are so many variables that affect the job we can do.
“We have tried to talk to Michael Gove but it appears he does not want to listen. We will take strike action on 17 October. It is not something I want to do but we have been left with little choice.
“Hopefully it will get called off but for that to happen we need serious talks about the crisis in education.”
NUT regional officer for the south west Jessica Pearce, estimated the turnout to be around 300.
She said; "They were predominately Devon based colleagues but we know that some travelled from Penzance, Gloucester Bournemouth and Poole so there was genuine regional representation. We have had really good support from the local area.
“It is a rally for education, for teachers, parents and governors, where they could learn more about what is going on in the education system. There are a lot of changes that affect children in Exeter that are not necessarily well publicised so we felt it was important to have a public meeting here.”
She said that among their on-going concerns were free schools that are funded by the state but not democratically controlled by the state.
“They cost a lot more per pupil and take funds away from other local schools,” added Ms Pearce.
There were also oncerns from governors becoming an academy. Spend all time on managing the budget rather than focus on education issues.
“It is run like a small business instead of an educational facility,” said Ms Pearce.
“We need to let teachers do their job and teach rather than be administrators.
“We have no issues with the local schools, heads or governors. Our argument is entirely with the secretary of state Michael Gove.”
Ray Davison, a governor at Exmouth Community College for 28 years, said: “I was the only governor to oppose academy status. I feared it would take resources away from other children should be more weakening the local authority. Way of cutting back the public sector. I feared it would end in academies becoming companies and businesses.. I feared it would change the relationship between the governors and headteachers. We used to be critical friends, now he is the employer. In other schools you have seen them take advantage of that. All the fears I had, have been realised.”
Andy Hannan, a governor of both Chestnut nursery and Wynstream Primary School in Exeter, said both have thrived in recent years because “they are local authority maintained community schools with a strong sense of mission and an impressive commitment to teamwork amongst the staff.
He said: “Teachers there have succeeded because they believe in the learning potential of their pupils and because they support one another.
“But at the next governor’s board meeting we have to discuss the adoption of a new pay scheme for teachers, the whole idea of which is to give us the freedom to incentivize them to excel by competing with their colleagues for extra money. Of course we will reject this approach as far as we are able and stick with the scheme nearest to what we have now.
“However, we cannot guarantee that this option will remain available or that a future governing body with revised membership might not adopt the government agenda.
“There were up to 300 people here today and it was an enthusiastic crowd, who are very worried about what is happening to the education system.”
The rally was jointly organised by the NASUWT and the NUT teachers’ unions, which together represent nine out of ten classroom teachers across the country.
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said: “These rallies give parents and the public an important opportunity to come together to demonstrate their widespread concern about the education policies of the Coalition Government and to join the fight to protect our world-class schools.
“Parents, teachers and the public care deeply about the education of our children and young people.
“We have been struck by the depth of anger and disappointment expressed by parents, governors and young people at our previous rallies.”