'I'm not striking just for me, but for education in general'

8th July 2011 at 01:00
The row over pensions spilt into the streets last week when thousands of teachers staged walk-outs all over the country. TES reporters joined the London marchers to gauge their mood

Last Thursday saw the first joint strike in a generation by two teacher unions in a bid to protect their pensions. Hundreds of thousands stayed off work for the day in what union leaders described as an unprecedented joint expression of anger. Some 11,000 schools were forced to close, and parents had to take time off work to care for their children.

Thousands of striking teachers - mainly ATL and NUT members, joined by public sector union the PCS - descended on city centres across the country to make their point peacefully.

Central London's demonstration culminated in a rally at the Central Methodist Hall in Westminster where union leaders took it in turns to make angry speeches.

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted received widespread media coverage when she took Labour leader Ed Miliband to task for his failure to support the unions in their display of anger.

Becky Ruston, Primary school, Bromley

"I'll be losing around #163;100 a month, and that is on top of a pay freeze and petrol prices going up. It's a kick in the teeth. Over the years of my teaching career, it's going to have a real impact."

Danielle Harbord, Woodmansterne Primary School, in Streatham, south London

"I feel as if the Government has forced us into action. None of us want to strike, but we don't want to work longer for less pension. I've calculated I stand to lose #163;277,000 from the value of my pension, and other colleagues have worked out they will lose #163;150,000. Parents have been really supportive, they appreciate how hard we work."

Rosie Marshall, Secondary teacher from Fulham, west London

"It's a fantastic dis-incentive to young people who want to teach. At our school we have a lot of children from underprivileged backgrounds on free school meals and we have pupils who speak many different languages. We show a real passion for the job on a daily basis and the pay isn't that great, but you know there is a pension to come at the end of it. It feels like the rug has been pulled from under our feet, and (education secretary) Michael Gove was there on TV saying we are undermining our profession. It's galling."

Wendy Sargeant, Design technology teacher, secondary school in Bethnal Green, east London

"I was an NASUWT member, but I was disappointed they weren't doing anything so I joined the NUT on Friday so I could strike. I wanted to be able to give a representation of my anger."

Genevieve Skinner, Manor Primary School, Newham, east London

"I hope this action makes a difference. If I didn't think it could, I wouldn't be here. I'm not striking just for me, but for education in general. If we want decent public services, we have to pay for them. Everyone seems to accept bankers are paid more because you need to attract the best people possible. Why can't they see that's the same for teachers? If we want the economy to grow we have to provide children with the best education possible."

Graham Riggans, Science teacher at a secondary school in Tower Hamlets, east London

"We are going to be working longer and paying an awful lot more because of the Government's cuts agenda, and the politicians' pensions will not be affected. I don't think they realise what we will be losing. When they say 'we're all in this together', I think it's lies, frankly."

Phil Harris, Ilford Ursuline High, east London

"I'm a science graduate. I could have got a much higher salary if I had gone into research or industry, but a big factor in choosing teaching was the final-salary pension. These changes will just alienate people. People working in the City get paid a lot, and they know that is because they have to put the hours in. Teachers also do that, but we don't get paid in the same way. If Michael Gove wants people to stay in the profession he must pay them a decent salary."

Rosemary Hobbs, Maths teacher at an independent school in Surrey

"My pension won't be affected, but (the changes) will affect a lot of people who are younger than me. There are 11 members of staff at my school in the ATL and NUT who are on strike. We feel very strongly in our belief that this is going to affect the profession as a whole. Independent schools will be very detrimentally affected. It's a difficult decision for teachers. There were quite a lot of people who were very, very unsure about whether to strike or not. Some joined the ATL because they thought it was a non-striking union so didn't come out, but they are very supportive."

Chris Coles (pictured above, centre), history teacher at a secondary school in Wimbledon, south-west London

"Whether to go on strike or not is a difficult decision from a teacher's point of view. I don't think any teacher wants to go on strike, and pupils' education is a real concern. But you have to look at it from a bigger perspective. If we are going to have these pension cutbacks, they have to be equal for all. If everybody is in this together, why isn't the Government's pension scheme being cut as well? All of us are working incredibly long hours because we are passionate about our jobs. We just want to be treated fairly and feel like our feelings and opinions have been considered."

Peter Burns (pictured above right), history teacher at a secondary in Wimbledon, south London

"My pension is not going to be directly affected, but I am here with a lot of young teachers today because I want to support them. Teaching is a hugely intensive profession, when you are taking classes of 30 children for five periods a day. If they are expecting us to go on until we are 68 years old, we won't be able to do it. Teaching is not like other jobs; it is a special case. They are making it up as they go along."

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