Teacher strikes 2023: Wirral teachers walk out for fair pay and school funding
Teachers walked out today in the first phase on strike action.
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Tiles are coming off the roof of a school, teachers are having to buy glue sticks, rising energy costs, staff taking second jobs and ever-increasing workloads are just some of the reasons teachers across Merseyside have walked out of their classrooms today.
The Wirral branch of the National Education Union, one of several unions for teachers, said around 75% to 80% were out on strike. They have approximately 3,000 members though some staff still went in to support pre-planned trips or events.
The walk-out is over a dispute relating to pay increases for staff and those on strike said there has been a significant lack of funding for schools.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, teacher’s pay is 11% less in 2022 than what it was in 2010 in real terms. In September 2022, most teachers were offered a pay rise of 5% but the money for this came out of existing school budgets raising concerns it could put more financial strain on schools.
The government said an extra £2bn had been given to schools and the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said this would take real-terms spending of schools to their highest level in history. The government has also raised concerns about the impact on children’s education because of missed school days due to the strikes.
Ian Harris, Secretary of Wirral NEU said: “I think the support has been fabulous. On the picket lines, horns have been honking and parents have been very supportive as well, particularly as the message is schools need more funding. We have had no poor comments, it’s all been very supportive.”
Erin Lanigan has been a teacher at Woodlands Primary School in Birkenhead since she moved from the US a year ago. She said: “It’s been very eye opening, the challenges they are having.
“I can see what they are up against. It’s just that for a country that has a lot of things put together, can’t they also support their teachers?”
Other teachers said they were having to pay for glue sticks, pens, pencils and rubbers regularly as schools weren’t able to pay for more. Malka Billing has been teaching at Woodlands for 37 years but said she has “never ever seen it like this.”
She said the school was unable to pay for support staff when teachers were off sick, with teaching assistants leading classes on a daily basis, taking them away from things like special needs provision.
She added: “The kids do not get a second chance. This is their only chance and there is nobody there to teach them.”
Rob Taylor, Woodlands site manager, said the school building was also deteriorating with tiles coming out of the ceiling, toilets needing replacing, with areas that have “never been improved.”
He said this was due to the school’s budget not being able to cover the costs. Workload pressures on teachers are also an issue.
Ferdushi Mohshin said: “I think it’s so important to say that it sounds like it’s just about pay and pay rise and it’s about so much more than that.”
She said a third of teachers have left the profession in recent years, adding: “The pressures that teachers are under to perform no matter what. It’s definitely about more than just a pay rise for teachers. It’s about adequate funding to support their pupils.”
NEU representative Mr Harris said these issues “will be addressed by proper funding”, adding: “That will reduce workload, reduce class sizes, and we would be able to recruit more teachers.
“They have missed their targets over the last five years so there’s a shortage of teachers. We’re not retaining people in the profession because of pay not going up as much and people are struggling.
“Teachers are taking second jobs and using food banks, things we never heard of before in our profession. Our support staff are really struggling at the same time.”
Mr Harris is optimistic a deal can be reached with the government, adding: “I do think it’s a realistic goal for the union to have. We value our children and value our educators and the government does need to take it seriously. At the moment I don’t think they’re engaging in serious talks to try and resolve the dispute.
He thinks the government will have to address the issues as other education unions are planning to ballot again for strikes which could lead to “school closures across the board.”