Sheffield teachers take action against government

Teacher's Strike at Barkers Pool
Teacher's Strike at Barkers Pool
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Hundreds of teachers demonstrated in Sheffield city centre as staff from around the region protested against planned changes to their pay, pensions and working conditions.

Thousands of children stayed away from classes as most schools across the city were hit by one-day strike action taken by members of the two largest teaching unions, the NASUWT and the NUT.

Teachers gathered in Barker’s Pool with schools from Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster, Chesterfield, Nottinghamshire, Hull and Lincolnshire all represented.

The unions called for industrial action in Yorkshire and the Midlands as part of a rolling programme of walk-outs taking place throughout the country.

Teachers then marched through city streets to a rally at Ponds Forge.

Speakers included Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, Patrick Roach, deputy general secretary of the NASUWT, and city teachers Robert Kapadia and Amy Murch.

Joel Rigler, aged 32, a teacher at Walkley Primary School, said staff felt it was time they took a stand.

“The majority of teachers in our school are taking action today – people are angry at attacks on the profession and I think we will be willing to take further action,” he said.

Colleague Rachel Baron, 29, a teacher for five years, said it was moves to take away lesson preparation time that she felt strongly about.

“We fought for a long time to get that much-needed time outside the classroom and to lose it just makes the job more stressful,” she said.

Natasha Semp, 40, who teaches languages at Meadowhead School, said anger had steadily been building up over the last two years.

“There has been a lot of focus on plans to introduce performance related pay – which we believe is incompatible to teachers working as a team – but in our staff room that’s low down on the list of priorities.

“Right at the top is the strain we are feeling as individuals, and the consequences to our health if we are to work till we are 68.

“It will not be good for the children either and we need to get that across to parents.”

A senior teacher from King Ecgbert School, who asked not to be named, said after 23 years in the profession she was expecting to retire after 30 years, not 45.

She said: “We work very hard yet we seem to get a lot of stick from many politicians and the media.

“Morale is very low, we really feel we are being trodden on.”

Jamie Gawler, 27, a teacher at Lower Meadow Primary, said she believed some parents were backing the protest and some weren’t.

She said: “We need to raise the profile of these issues – after three years in the job my workload is already enormous.

“We’re doing a very important job, we’re not just babysitters.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are striking over the Government’s measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more.

“Industrial action disrupts pupils’ education, hugely inconveniences parents and damages the profession’s reputation in the eyes of the public at a time when our reforms are driving up standards across the country.”

Unions are to call for a national one-day strike later this term, with the date still to be fixed.