NEU union teachers on strike at Wickersley school in Rotherham

Tens of thousands of teachers across the north of England walked out on Tuesday in their pay fight. It marked the first of three days of regional strikes by NEU union members. Teachers in the Midlands are set to strike on Wednesday and those in Wales, the south of England and London on Thursday.

Strikers in the north of England forced the closure of scores of many schools, with many more only able to open for some year groups. Debs, a teacher in Runcorn in Cheshire, told Socialist Worker, “We are striking for a pay rise at least in line with inflation. But it’s important that it is government funded—not funded by school budgets.

“We haven’t had a pay rise for many years. Many teachers are leaving. It’s frightening that people don’t want to stay in the profession and because people are leaving, we have bigger classes and a larger workload.

“School budgets are stretched more than ever. Some schools have made some support staff redundant—not because they’re not needed, because they can’t afford them.”

Debs added that in her district there are more picket lines during the teachers’ first strike on 1 February, when NEU members across England and Wales walked out. “Everyone is still up for it,” she said. “If anything, anger is more as there have been basically no talks and the right wing media attacks us. But there’s lots of support. Arriva buses beep their horns as they drive by and parents seem keen to support us.”

Ann, a teacher in Greater Manchester, told Socialist Worker, “Everyone is behind the strike. We are all seeing the cost of food and other things rise so I’m glad teachers are standing up for themselves.”

She added, “More teachers have said they’ll strike this time and more of the school is closed. Parents have also said they’ll join us and some of the students have made supportive posters.” 

Regional strike rallies were set to take place in Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle. Ann added, “We are all travelling to a protest in Manchester city centre too, so we are going as hard as we can to win.”

Teachers are set to strike across England and Wales on 15 March alongside tens of thousands of other workers. This includes over 100,000 PCS and Prospect union civil service workers, 40,000 RMT rail union members, junior doctors in England and Aslef union Tube drivers. And they plan to walk out again the following day alongside RMT rail workers.

The NEU needs to set out a credible plan of action after 16 March to win the dispute, not just have a protest. And that must mean escalating the strike. To beat the government in such a high-profile dispute will almost certainly require striking for more than one day every week and disrupting schools in the run-up to exams. And there must be no pausing of strikes for empty talks.

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