An Old Buckenham High School teacher and National Union of Teachers (NUT) representative praised the hundreds of people who supported last week’s school strikes, as industrial action by public service workers persisted over disputes about pay, pensions and workloads.
Around 90 Norfolk schools, including those in Diss, Dickleburgh, Long Stratton and Old Buckenham, shut completely or partially on Thursday, July 10, with about 700 teachers, parents and children conducting a rally in Norwich as part of broad nationwide protests by local government workers.
In addition, Norfolk Fire Service experienced intermittent disruption every day this week as members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) staged walk-outs over their new pension scheme. Service at around half of the county’s fire stations will remain sporadic until Tuesday, although assurances were made that the service would continue to run as effectively as possible during ths time.
Chrissie Smith, Joint Division Secretary at Norfolk NUT, told the Diss Express: “We were very pleased to get such a good turnout. I felt there was a really good atmosphere.
“We marched in the streets and peopled cheered all the way. There was no criticism from parents, which showed the support for the teachers.”
Mrs Smith, who has taught English and drama at Old Buckenham High for 34 years, stated that teachers did not like striking, but said attention needed to be given to their working demands, pensions and salary.
“I almost feel as if someone has stolen from my pension pot. The government has refused to audit pension money and if I live to 80, I will be £140,000 down from what I should have had,” she said.
“Although pensions may still seem reasonable, I think being asked to work until we are 68 is not sustainable. I see teachers burn out from their workload after five years.”
Mrs Smith commented that the teaching profession was “fatigued by the rate of change” due to “kneejerk reactions” and added that she hoped the recent central government reshuffle, which saw Michael Gove replaced by Nicky Morgan as Secretary of State for Education, would help the situation.
She added: “I am delighted that the NUT’s rolling program of strikes has finally made the Government listen and sideline Michael Gove. We are highly hopeful that Nicky Morgan will give teachers the respect they deserve by listening to what they have to say.”
National trade union body Unison also backed the public sector strikes, pointing out that many local government employees earn less than the Living Wage of £7.65 an hour.
However, Francis Maude, Cabinet Office Minister, said: “As part of our economic plan, this Government has had to take tough decisions.
“The blame for...disruption rests with union leaders who pushed for unnecessary strike action with weak mandates.”