More than 2,000 teachers on strike in Waltham Forest, claims union (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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‘This is the fight of our lives’, says striking teacher
More than 2,000 teachers are striking in Waltham Forest today, according to the National Union of Teachers (NUT).
Teachers gathered at four picket lines this morning, with one veteran teacher describing the action as “the fight of our lives”.
There is widespread concern about mounting workloads and the way pupils are being taught, with an emphasis on passing exams rather than provided a full education, unions claim.
Proposed government changes to pensions, which critics say would see teachers contributing more, and the introduction of performance-related pay have also been slammed.
Half of schools in Waltham Forest are closed, with picket lines at Leyton Sixth Form College in Essex Road, Kelmscott School in Markhouse Road, Walthamstow, Frederick Bremer Secondary School in Siddeley Road, Walthamstow and Sir George Monoux in Chingford Road, Walthamstow.
Mike Brooks, 32, science teacher and NUT representative at Kelmscott School, led a picket of six teachers this morning.
He would not confirm if any union members had crossed the picket line, but said: “We have a very strong picket here today and it’s extremely well supported.
"We’re not here to block anyone’s way or intimidate anyone. We want a visual presence and people have been beeping their car horns in support.”
He added: “I’m doing this reluctantly. I want to be getting back to my work.”
Steve White, division secretary of Waltham Forest NUT was at a picket of 12 teachers at Sir George Monoux and he said union teachers attempting to work today “should be made aware that other people are making a sacrifice for them and losing a day’s pay.
"They should be showing solidarity. We are striking for the benefit of teaching.”
Teachers gathered in Walthamstow town square before heading off to a march of both NUT and NASUWT unions in central London.
Linda Taaffe, 66, a nursery class teacher at South Grove Primary School in Markhouse Lane, Walthamstow, closed today by the strike action, has been a teacher for 30 years.
She said: “The workload is becoming unbearable. We have to take a stand, not just for ourselves but for the younger teachers. We’ve got to do it for them and the children we are teaching.
"This is the fight of out lives.
“We are planning another strike action in November and we want all the other unions to join us so the government gets the message that public sector workers are not going to take it.“
Mr White confirmed that if there was no change in the government’s position after today’s action, that another strike would be taking place.
The government has criticised the strike action for disrupting children's education and claims teachers still have better pensions than the majority of the public and private sector.
The Department for Education said new performance-related pay structures will allow headteachers to pay good teachers more.
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