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Barnet's teachers join mass strike over pay, pensions and jobs
Armed with banners and flags, dozens of teachers are taking part in today’s strike for better pay, pensions, working conditions and jobs.
At least 40 schools are closed in Barnet as teachers take part in the mass walkout organised by National Union of Teachers (NUT) and National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).
Teachers are against proposals made by Education Secretary Michael Gove to bring in performance-related pay, increased workloads and changes to pensions.
Kicking off the action in Barnet this morning, teachers and pupils joined a picket line at Copthall School in Pursley Road, Mill Hill.
Joining the rally was teacher Ed Lewis, a teacher at the school for seven years.
Speaking to the Times Series he said: “It’s important we strike today because we’re facing attacks from the Government on so many fronts.
“We’ve had a pay freeze for two years and then a below inflation pay increase, so below one per cent – this obviously has an impact on people’s standard of living.
“And then there’s performance-related pay, which I think will change culture in schools, making it more competitive, creating division between managers and teachers and increasing levels of bureaucracy.
“The whole culture is decreasingly based on trust in teachers and that is felt by us all – it undermines us really.”
Mr Lewis went on to join other teachers and pupils at Finchley Central station where they planned to travel to central London for today’s rally.
Paul Willcocks, a teacher at Henrietta Barnett School, said: “We don’t necessarily want to strike – we know it’s destructive to our students and parents – but we feel we have no choice until negotiations happen.
“If we don’t stand up for our rights as a teacher it will be a lot worse for future teachers and for ourselves.
“In terms of working until 68, particularly for younger teachers, we’re looking at a bleak prospect. Instead of your wages going up each year, you’ll have to prove your worth. Rather than schools seeking proof, teachers will have to provide the proof themselves, which takes a lot of time.
“I feel valued by my students and colleagues but not by the Government. It can be demoralising when you know you’re doing a good job but there’s no formal recognition in terms of pay and conditions.”
The group was joined by Barnet’s NUT secretary, Keith Nason, who said strike action would not be happening if Mr Gove had agreed to enter negotiations.
He admitted the strike is disruptive to parents and pupils but said it is “a last resort”.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are striking over the Government's measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more. In a recent poll, 61 per cent of respondents supported linking teachers' pay to performance and 70 per cent either opposed the strikes or believed that teachers should not be allowed to strike at all.
"All strikes will do is disrupt parents' lives, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession."
To see which schools are affected by today's strike visit Barnet Council's website: www.barnet.gov.uk
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