Teachers rally to join march as job cuts hit home

25th March 2011 at 00:00
Official figures put education losses at 32,000 on eve of TUC demonstration

Thousands of teachers and school support staff are expected to take to the streets in a major protest against public service spending cuts tomorrow, as the first evidence of mass education redundancies starts to emerge.

The NUT and the NASUWT, the biggest classroom unions, have arranged transport for about 10,000 of their members to attend the TUC's March for the Alternative, and many others will be making their own way there.

The NUT said it had chartered three trains to bring 1,500 protesters from Liverpool, Manchester and Lancaster alone.

They will join about 200,000 public sector workers marching from Embankment to Hyde Park, where a host of union leaders, including Chris Keates of the NASUWT and Christine Blower of the NUT, will make speeches.

The event is taking place just a week after new figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed 32,000 jobs in education were lost in the final three months of 2010 alone. This comes despite claims that school budgets are being largely protected from the worst of the cuts.

And as councils are forced to make enormous cost-savings, thousands of local authority central services jobs in education are also due to disappear, leaving ethnic minority support, truancy teams and school- improvement services diminished.

A seminar to advise headteachers faced with redundancy decisions held recently by the Association of School and College Leaders attracted about 60.

Teachers and support staff attending tomorrow's rally have also been fired up by proposed cuts to pensions and the rush to create academies, which do not have to conform with nationally agreed pay and conditions.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of education union the ATL, who is expected to attend the march, said tighter education budgets were also having a big impact on those who still had jobs.

"Our members are reporting being asked to work much longer, and non- contact hours are being cut," she said.

Avis Gilmore, the NUT's regional secretary in the North West, said there was "unprecedented support" for the rally among members.

She said: "We have not attempted anything like this before. The strength of feeling is really high. There are large numbers of people being made redundant in central services and teachers are seeing they are not getting the support they used to get.

"Around a third of people in the region are employed in the public sector so the cuts are having an impact on almost everyone."

She added that concerns had been raised about the potential for far-left militants to hi-jack the march for violent ends, although it had not put people off attending.

The Metropolitan police recently appointed a "kettling officer" to ensure the welfare of marchers if they had to be held in one place to allow the police to deal with violent incidents.

Meanwhile, thousands of London teachers were also expected to attend the march - many of them to oppose a wide range of coalition policies, not just cuts to public services.

Jeremy Latham, 40, an English teacher from an east London secondary, told The TES: "Education is being massively attacked by this Government, through pay and conditions to pensions and through the drive towards academies.

"The only way schools are going to make money out of becoming academies is by altering pay and conditions and making teachers work harder.

"Making teachers spend more time with classes might raise some grades in the short term, but in the long term, teachers are going to be exhausted, it's an exhausting job."

The TUC, which has organised the event, insists that the Government is cutting too hard and too fast. It wants chancellor George Osborne to introduce a "Robin Hood tax" on banks to help reduce the deficit.

It says making big public sector job cuts now will reduce the economy's chances of recovery, as people will have much less money to spend.

Protest primer: On the march

- Route: London's TUC March for the Alternative will cover a three-mile route from Victoria Embankment through central London to Hyde Park.

- Numbers expected: between 100,000 and 200,000.

- Teaching union leaders speaking: the NUT's Christine Blower and Chris Keates of the NASUWT.

- Key issues for teaching unions: job cuts, changes to pensions and pay and conditions, academies and free schools.

- TUC advice to marchers: "Bring a rucksack, packed lunch and enjoy the sights."

Original headline: Teachers rally to join protest march as job cuts hit home

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