NUT SIXTH form teachers walked out on strike yesterday morning at colleges across the country against Tory funding cuts that are driving up class sizes, cutting courses, cutting pay and staff and even forcing entire colleges to close.
On Monday the Tory education secretary Nicky Morgan took the union to the High Court to attempt to rule the strike ‘illegal’. However, in what teachers have rightly called ‘a resounding victory for the entire trade union movement’ the government was defeated and the strike went ahead.
‘We are striking to defend education,’ NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney told a packed strikers rally at the Camden Centre in London yesterday. He said: ‘I would like to thank you all. The picket lines have been brilliant. Education secretary Nicky Morgan’s misjudged legal action on Monday has given us far more support.
‘We defeated the government in the High Court.
‘They wanted to prove that our strike was defending education but not teachers conditions. They said that if the strike was for defending education it was “illegal”. The truth is different, you cannot defend education without defending our terms and conditions of service.
‘If class sizes go up, there is much more pressure on teachers and cuts mean courses are cut, so we proudly say: “We are defending education”. We are defending teachers’ and pupils’ working conditions. The funding for sixth form colleges was cut by 14% under the coalition.
‘The present cash freeze is equivalent to an 80% cut because of extra costs. Chancellor Osborne is taking 5% of your budget. We will see colleges close, class sizes go up and courses close, unless we fight these cuts. Today is just the beginning. We will win! The cuts are not just in sixth form colleges they are also in schools.
‘Parents did not vote for their colleges and schools to be cut. There is going to be turmoil over the cuts that they are going to attempt to impose on schools and sixth form colleges. We stand in the way. This is the beginning of the campaign. We are defending education as well as defending teachers’ pay.’
The NUT general secretary Christine Blower read out messages of support including from the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady who said: ‘The TUC is proud to send our solidarity. You are standing up for jobs and pay. The whole of the trade union movement is behind you.’
Phillipa Harvey, NUT president, read out other messages of support including from POA general secretary Steve Gillan who said: ‘The victory in the High Court was a victory for common sense. I firmly believe that all unions should stand together so that there is the widest front of resistance possible.’
Hannah Williams, a teacher from Peter Simmonds Sixth Form College in Winchester told News Line earlier: ‘We have to support all the actions – the junior doctors, the nurses and other teachers to protect our country’s future. It is fabulous that the High Court ruled in our favour the other day. It was mud in the eye of the government.
‘If the verdict had gone against us, it would have been a sad day for all unions and the right to defend ourselves. I think a general strike is needed. It is getting to that. It might be the only way, everyone standing together.’
After the rally, sixth form teachers boarded battle buses put on by the union which took the strikers to parliament. From there, NUT leaders Courtney and Blower led a march to the Department for Education. The front banner read: ‘Save sixth form education colleges, invest don’t cut’. Teachers shouted: ‘No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!’