Enfield’s striking teachers ‘standing up for education’

Members of the National Education Union are in a dispute with the government over pay, reports James Cracknell

NEU teachers on the picket line in Enfield
Teachers on the picket line in Enfield (credit NEU Enfield)

Teachers in Enfield are demanding a fully-funded, above-inflation pay rise after walking out today (Thursday) as part of their ongoing industrial dispute with the government.

There were picket lines outside many Enfield schools this morning with striking teachers later converging at Enfield Civic Centre for a rally. They had also previously walked out in February and further NEU strikes are planned for Wednesday, 15th March and Thursday, 16th March.

Teacher members of the National Education Union (NEU) voted overwhelmingly for strike action as a result of what they call a “failure” by the education secretary to ensure enough money is available to pay a fully-funded increase in pay for teachers which at least matches inflation “and which begins to restore lost pay”. 

At the start of the school year, 74 out of 89 schools in Enfield faced funding cuts. Campaigning by the NEU and other education unions pushed the government to give out £2billion extra for education funding, yet this was not meant for pay increases and “falls far short of what is needed” according to the NEU. 

The union adds that teachers in Enfield and across the country are dealing with increasing workload and stress as a result of difficulties to recruit new staff, rising numbers of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (Send), as well as catch-up plans from missed school time during Covid-19 lockdowns. A third of new teachers now leave within five years of training. 

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The Enfield NEU branch points out that since 2015 Enfield schools have lost the equivalent of £424 per pupil in funding. Enfield NEU secretary Anne-Marie Hickling said: “Should our children be worth £424 less? Absolutely not. As dedicated professionals, who struggle to plug the ever widening gaps in our workplaces, our actions aren’t just about pay – we are standing up for education.

“We would rather be teaching, in our schools, today. We feel that this government has given us no other option but to take strike action. This is not just about teachers’ pay, this is about school cuts and underfunding which continues to have a lasting and damaging impact on our children.”  

Striking teachers gathering in Enrield Town on Thursday
Striking teachers gathering in Enfield Town on Thursday

The NEU has stated: “It continues to be the aspiration of the NEU and its membership that this dispute can be resolved without recourse to strike action. We regret having to take strike action and are willing to enter negotiations at any time, any place, but this situation cannot go on.”  

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “Instead of sitting round a table discussing pay, the NEU will once again cause disruption for children and families.

“Children deserve to be in school, and further strike action is simply unforgivable, especially after everything children have been through because of the pandemic.”

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