PAY, pensions and having to work until they are aged 68 led to scores of teachers taking to the streets of Sheffield on Saturday to draw attention to their plight.
The NUT and NASUWT unions organised Saturdays’ march and demonstration in Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s constituency city at the same time as another in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Oxfordshire constituency - with the aim of highlighting the working conditions the unions claim teachers face.
They say morale in schools is at an all-time low with teachers’ pay frozen at the same time as they are being asked to pay more into their pensions, work longer and draw less when they finally retire.
Protesters gathered at Devonshire Green before marching to the City Hall for a rally.
Ben Morris, Joint Divisional Secretary of the NUT, said “Teachers will not stand back any longer and see school budgets cut and our pay and conditions undermined.
“The conditions of teachers are becoming intolerable in too many schools, where workload and stress are reaching critical points, so much so they are literally becoming a Health and Safety issue. Too many teachers are now being forced off work and sometimes out of their jobs with stress-related illnesses.
“A survey recently reported 80 per cent of teachers reported giving up sleep to clear a backlog of work - 42 per cent doing so in the last month. Teachers are now at the point where they really have had enough, so a perfect storm is brewing which could lead to joint strike action by the main teaching unions this autumn.”
Natasha Semp, last year’s President of the NUT’s Sheffield branch and a teacher at Meadowhead School, said: “Teachers everywhere feel they are being prevented from doing their jobs because of the stresses and strains being put on us by this Government because of the target-driven culture that we live in.
“What we would like to be able to do is go into the classroom and teach. We work tirelessly, regularly having to put in 50-hour-plus weeks and now we are being told we have to work until we are 68 - too old to function properly in the classroom to deliver the best education to all children.”
NASUWT member Clare Rundell, a secondary school teacher in Sheffield, said: “Because of the increasing work load we are under it is impossible to plan lessons effectively because of the other demands that take up your time such as data inputting to ensure targets are being met.
“I have been teaching for eight years and, across the profession, I have never seen such low morale.”
Health worker Andrea Morrall, 42, who also attended the march and rally, said: “I am here to support the teachers because this is the same fight all the public sector is facing.”