Sixth form teachers at a Clapton sixth form college joined those in 25 other institutions across the country to strike over pay and funding yesterday.
The National Education Union (NEU) said the walkout is set to be the first in a “wave of escalating action” over the one per cent pay increase awarded to sixth form teachers as compared to the 2.75 per cent awarded to school teachers.
The union points out teachers overall have taken a “massive hit” in pay since 2010, earning 15 per cent less in real terms, while also seeking to highlight financial pressures leaving students’ services struggling.
BSix student Elizabeth Egoruvwe said: “Every year things are getting harder and harder. For example to get my bursary and free school meals, they ask me for more and more paperwork and then I get less than before.
“It is not fair. I support the teachers demanding more funding for sixth form colleges.”
A 19 September report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) showed that the sixth from sector has borne the brunt of cuts to funding in comparison to other areas.
The government has allocated an extra £300 million for the sector for 2020/21, which will still leave its per-student spend over 20 per cent less than its 2010/11 level.
The IFS say it will take £1.1 billion worth of funding to fully reverse the cuts made over the last 10 years.
The college remained open for students to work in yesterday, with BSix principal Kevin Watson regretting the disruption to students’ studies whilst voicing his support for the strike.
He said: “In recent years financial pressures have been the root cause of job losses, cuts to the curriculum and restrictions on what we can spend on a range of facilities in need of modernization.
“Equally, a fall in the salaries of college teachers relative to school teachers has not helped us to continue attracting and retaining the best possible staff.”
The NEU is saying that after redundancies for both teaching and support staff, remaining teachers’ workloads are “intolerable”, with student service cuts hitting counselling, careers advice and extra-curricular enrichment.
Jamie Duff of the Hackney branch of the NEU said: ‘Sixth form colleges are on the brink. This government seems intent on destroying these most valuable institutions. They have had their budgets cut year on year.
“If this government is serious about investing in the future why not invest properly in our young people?
“The sixth form college sector and further education play an extremely important role within the education system and we demand that they are properly funded.
“Sixth form college teachers have had enough – they are sick of working more for less. They can see the damage that the funding cuts have done to teachers and students and are striking to defend the sector and the young people they teach.”
The Department for Education has criticised the strike, with cabinet minister Michelle Donelan claiming that the 25 out of 87 colleges coming out on strike showed that the level of support for the NEU’s action was not “wholehearted”.
Donelan said: “It is very disappointing that the NEU has decided to take strike action in sixth form colleges and 16-19 academies.
“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.
“We are committed to an ongoing dialogue with the NEU and I have already met with the joint general secretaries to discuss how we can avoid disruptive strike action in the future.”