VIDEO: Politicians are split over teachers strike as three quarters of district's schools shut (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Teachers' strike that closed 115 schools across district meets support and opposition at City Hall
Politicians are at loggerheads over whether it was right for teachers to walk out of the classroom today.
Three quarters of the district’s schools were closed or partially closed due to industrial action.
A rally organised by the National Union of Teachers led to more than 100 teachers marching through the city as part of the row over pay and conditions.
Bradford Council said the strike affected at least 115 schools, although more may have closed and not informed the authority.
The union wants the Government to reconsider changes including performance-related pay, raising the retirement age to 68 and teachers’ increased workload. Last month a Government report showed primary school teachers worked an average of 60 hours a week and secondary school teachers 56 hours.
But the Department for Education spokesman said: “They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and talks have been taking place weekly.
“Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is taking action that will disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession.”
Conservative and Liberal Democrats councillors in Bradford have also criticised the strike.
They say at a time when the Council is taking a tougher stance on parents who take their children out of classes in term time, it was irresponsible for teachers to force them to do the same by striking.
But Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for children’s services, supported the strikers and spoke at a rally at the Hilton Hotel following the march.
Ian Murch, Bradford spokesman for the NUT, said the increased workload was harming teacher morale.
“Forty per cent of newly-qualified teachers leave in the first five years. I think this is something that needs to change,” he said.
“We are really sorry to parents that we have to do this, but it is the only way we can get the Government to listen.”
Teacher Helen Latkar said: “People ask why don’t we get other jobs, but we stay because we love our jobs. But at the end of the day there is only so much we can take.”
Liberal Democrat group leader, Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, said: “I’d hope they could resolve things by negotiations, and I’m disappointed so many people have had their working day disrupted. Parents are being fined for taking their children out of school and now teachers are doing the very same.
“The Council’s educational message should always be that children are better off in school, so I’m surprised to hear Coun Berry support something that is taking people out of school.”
Councillor Roger L’Amie, the Conservative group’s education spokesman, said: “I think most teachers do a good job, but I’m not convinced that strike action is the right thing for professional people to be doing, and I’m not sure the portfolio holder should be supporting a strike which is closing schools across the district.”
Coun Berry said he felt no hypocrisy by supporting the strike, adding: “People shouldn’t just dismiss this as just a one day strike – this is how teachers are being treated, and I am sympathetic to them.”
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