Teachers turn out in force to send message to Education Minister
TEACHERS from across the town headed to Bristol yesterday to take part in a regional march as part of strike action against the Government.
Many schools were forced to close, while others only ran a handful of classes due to the shortages.
Members of the NUT and the NASUWT voted to strike in a disagreement over pay, pension contributions and working conditions.
They say the time has come to stand up to the changes being made by the Government.
Due to many of the schools being shut, a decision was made by the unions to join the protest in Bristol rather than form a picket line outside the schools.
The Swindon teachers joined more than 3,000 others from across the region and marched from College Green, through the city centre to the Royal Hotel.
Due to the numbers, many could not fit inside the hotel so the speakers, which included the heads of both unions, had to come outside to repeat their message to the crowds.
“It has come to the point where we have had to take a stand,” said Ian Hamilton, a maths teacher at Swindon’s Isambard Community School.
“The profession has been hit hard by the Government and we are not prepared to take much more.
“Pension contributions have risen and Michael Gove is planning to bring in performance-related pay.
“However, it is not just about conditions.
“The plans from the Government threaten the whole system so we are here to safeguard education for the next 20, 30 and even 40 years.
“To get the best level of education, teachers need to be paid a fair wage or you will not get the best graduates entering the profession.”
The strike action was part of a day of regional strikes across the country in which teachers in London, Cumbria, the South East and the North East all walked out.
Every secondary school in Swindon was forced to close entirely or partially for the day.
Many primary schools were also being forced into similar measures.
Ian said: “I think most parents understand why we are doing this.
“It may be inconvenient for them during the day but all the parents I have spoken with know the reasons why we are taking this action.”
As well as the rally in Bristol, there have been large scale gatherings in London, Durham and Brighton.
The unions, which represent the majority of teachers have said that if the Government does not sit down for meaningful negotiations there will be a national strike in November.
“Talks can be successful if they are meaningful as has been shown in Wales,” said Jon Timbrell, who teaches at Swindon Academy.
“Our colleagues there were set to join us on the strike but because talks took place and so the strike was cancelled.
“The march and rally is to send a message to Michael Gove, not only on conditions but also his attempt to turn the curriculum into something represents a pub quiz followed by a test at the end of the year.
“Teachers want to give children an education that engages children and gives them a chance to use their creativity.
“The Government plans will see the curriculum return to something similar to Victorian standards.”
Peter Smith, an NUT representative from Swindon who was at the rally, said: “The turn-out has been huge. It shows the level of support from teachers for the action.
“We have also had a great deal of support from members of the public.
“Swindon has been well represented here today.
“I just hope the government looks at this level of support, sees sense and starts negotiations.”
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