A veteran south Norfolk teacher and union secretary sounded the call for greater investment in education after thousands joined in strikes across the UK this week.
Schoolteachers and National Union of Teachers (NUT) members took industrial action over pay and working conditions on Tuesday, resulting in full or partial closures at several primary schools over the Diss Express area, including Diss, Roydon, Dickleburgh, Forncett, Old Buckenham, Harleston and Kenninghall.
Norfolk NUT Joint Division Secretary Chrissie Smith, who has taught English and drama at Old Buckenham High School for 34 years, praised the “wonderful” support from parents and children at a rally in Norwich and described “a lot of feeling” behind the strikes.
“The main message has got to be that the erosion of teachers’ working pay and conditions is leading to bigger classes and smaller budgets,” she told the Diss Express.
“We need to increase budgets for schools. If more money is not put in, it’s our children who are going to suffer.
“Unless money is found for education, we will be in a downward spiral.”
We need to increase budgets for schools. If more money is not put in, it’s our children who are going to sufferChrissie Smith
Ms Smith, who also advises the Children’s Services Committee, claimed that Norfolk specifically faced unique challenges, because the way the county is spread out, although she stated there had been “significant improvements” in recent times.
She cited difficulties with recruitment and retention of teachers, whom she said often liked to work in “busier areas” of the nation.
“Norfolk is lovely. I was born and bred here,” she said.
“But we need to do more to sell Norfolk to teachers.
“Retention is difficult because teachers are starting off and becoming qualified, and then they burn out in five years because they are asked to do so much.”
Responding to Tuesday’s events, the government’s Department for Education called the strikes “unnecessary”, with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan saying they would “damage the profession’s reputation in the eyes of the public”.
However, Ms Smith argued the industrial action had been scheduled at a “quiet time of year academically” to minimise disruption to students.
She added: “Actually, it’s the way the budget is set out and the way teachers are worked too hard that’s destroying our education system.
“I think the government has a strange approach.
“The people teaching in the classroom are the experts and we should be listened to.”