Anger at the Tories on the march in London during the teachers’ strike (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Teachers shut down schools across England on Wednesday as part of two days of strikes. The NEU union members in nurseries, primaries and secondaries plan to walk out again on Friday in their battle over pay.

Over 10,000 NEU members from London and surrounding regions marched through the capital with flags and music. The lively march shows that teachers in England are still up for a fight—and know they’re worth more than the measly offer from the Tory government.

Rosie works in a nursery school in Lewisham, south London. “This is our seventh picket and we shut our school, then we joined another picket,” she told Socialist Worker.

“Our workplace has suffered from years and years of cuts and is under threat of closure in the next couple of years. That would be a tragedy, but we are resolute.”

As they marched, teachers chanted, “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” and “What do we want? Fair pay.” They jeered and booed as they passed the Department of Education.

Tory education secretary Gillian Keegan withdrew her offer of 4.5 percent plus a £1,000 one-off payment that the unions rejected, and is now refusing to re-enter negotiations. Only 0.5 percent of that would be government funded with the rest coming out of existing school budgets, and the one-off payment is much less after tax.

John is a teaching assistant from Lambeth in south London. “We’ve had nearly 15 years of austerity and all the money is going upwards rather than where it should be,” he told Socialist Worker. “I don’t agree that pay rises cause inflation—it’s profiteering.

“People will come back in September for more. I don’t think the energy has gone, people are still up for striking and most people understand why.”

Rosie says that the strike has to escalate to win. “If the whole country came to a standstill and children couldn’t go to school it could be over within the week,” she said.

“Ultimately, we should do an indefinite strike. Then we can get back into our classroom and support our children and families and do what we want to do every day.

“There’s enough public anger and support for teachers—especially if other unions come together.”

Jenny, district secretary for Hastings NEU, told Socialist Worker, “One day strikes aren’t going to win this. We’re not going to hold everyone together with disparate days here and there. We’ve got to fight, and when we’re back in September we’ve got to make sure we win.”

While the demonstration was big, some pickets and walkouts were smaller showing the danger of having long pauses between action.

At the rally, St Mungo’s homelessness charity workers announced they’d voted to reject a 3 percent pay offer from bosses. The all-out strikers voted 62.2 percent against the deal on a 77 percent turnout. NEU members can take heart from this—and escalate their dispute and say no to bad deals.

NEU members are currently voting on a re-ballot, which runs out on 28 July, to extend the strike mandate. And school support workers in state schools in England are voting on whether to strike over pay and conditions in a ballot that continues until 11 August.

It’s good there is the possibility of a bigger fight in September. Union members must push for more days of strikes every week to ensure they win. 

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