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Every Plymouth school to be affected during NEU teacher strikes

About 1,500 teachers in Plymouth are set to go on strike next week, hitting every school in the city. Members of the National Education Union (NEU) will walk out on Wednesday, Feb. 1, as part of a long-running and acrimonious dispute over wages and working conditions that affects about 100 primaries and secondary primaries.

There are expected to be picket lines outside some schools and an afternoon rally outside the Guildhall where teachers will be joined by University of Plymouth teachers, civil servants and train divers all also striking that day.

At 5pm there will be a rally at the Charles Cross roundabout where union and non-union workers will show their support for the strikers. They will then march to the Lower Guildhall at 6pm for a meeting.

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The NEU, Britain’s largest education union, called a national strike after 90% of its members voted in favor of union action. The union is furious with the government offering a wage deal that remains below inflation, representing a 5% real wage cut on top of more than a decade of substandard wages.

In Plymouth, teachers will take part in the national strike on February 1 and again on March 15 and 16. In addition, there has been a call for a strike for South West NEU members on March 2 unless the dispute is resolved. February 1 is expected to be a major day of industrial unrest in Plymouth, with strikes from the University and College Union (UCU), Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and Aslef.

Alex Moore, NEU secretary for Plymouth, said the education union wanted an inflation-matched pay award for teachers and support staff. But he stressed that the dispute went further, saying: “It also has to do with workload and terms of service, recruitment and retention.”

Mr Moore said 13% of teachers leave the profession within two years of full qualification. He said 40% of teachers quit their jobs within ten years. He said, “It’s supposed to be a 40-year career, so there’s a huge waste.”

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Class sizes are the largest since 2000 and applications to become teachers are down 22%. He said teachers are facing increasing workloads and stress and the dispute has been rumbling since January 2022. He said: “It’s (the strike) not something we wanted. We prefer to go to school with the children.”

Dr. Matthew Carbery, a teacher and NEU representative at Tor Bridge High, in Estover, said years of real pay cuts and shrinking staff numbers had left teachers with no choice but to take action. He said many schools are facing a cut in their budget in 2023/24, meaning a loss of £123 for each pupil.

He said: “We are not striking against the schools, the NEU is going to strike against the government. We don’t want to have to strike, we want to teach children and young people in the classroom.

“But there is a crisis in recruitment. And since 2010, 23% of wages have been lost in real terms because it hasn’t kept up with inflation. It means that every teacher works one day a week for free.

“Thirteen years ago, when house prices were cheaper, it would have been ridiculous not to be able to buy a house as a teacher. But now some teachers can’t afford to get up the housing ladder. And some teachers use food banks to support their income.”

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