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Sixth form teachers strike in protest against ‘cuts that have hit students’

‘We do not understand why we are not valued . . . It feels like a slap in the face,’ says union

18 October, 2019 — By Anna Cooban

Teachers at City and Islington Sixth Form College

TEACHERS at City and Islington Sixth Form College went on strike in protest against funding cuts they say have devastated students’ opportunities.

The strike took place outside the college’s base in Angel as part of an action backed by the National Education Union (NEU) involving 25 colleges across the country.

They are protesting against years of salary cuts, bulging classroom sizes and an excessive workload that is damaging both student and teacher welfare.

NEU Islington branch spokeswoman Pippa Dowswell said: “We do not understand why we are not being valued. At City and Islington, we have picked up pupils from really tough backgrounds that other schools won’t give a chance to. We’ve broken our backs to give them a chance.”

She added: “Sixth form colleges have been disproportionately hit by austerity.

“Since 2010, there’s been a 22 per cent reduction in funding in real terms. It feels like a slap in the face.”

Support staff such as councillors, careers advisers and librarians have felt the brunt of the funding squeeze which means teachers are having to take on these responsibilities, Ms Dowswell said.

She added: “The funding cuts have had a massive impact on our college, resulting in the degradation of all our support services. There has been a huge impact on staff workload as teachers try to plug the gaps, with a resultant effect on their physical and mental health.”

Another teacher, who did not want to be named, added that the college is not able to subsidise extracurricular trips and activities to the extent that they did before.

This means parents have had to foot the bill and so children from lower-income backgrounds are missing out on this part of their education.

Sixth form college teachers are demanding a pay increase in line with what is being offered to primary and high schools. They are also demanding that funding per student should increase from £4,000 to at least £4,760, rising in line with inflation, MS Dowswell said.

Teachers are planning further strike action on November 5 and 20 if their demands are not met.

Education minister Michelle Donelan said: “It is very disappointing that the National Education Union has decided to take strike action in sixth form colleges and 16-19 academies. With the NEU only gaining threshold support in 25 out of 87 colleges where they balloted for strikes, it is clear that this strike does not have the wholehearted support of union members.

“The decision to strike is especially discouraging given that we have committed to increasing 16-19 funding in the 2020/21 academic year by £400 million – the biggest injection of new money in a single year since 2010. This is in addition to funding the additional costs of pension schemes in 2020/21.”

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