Decrying widespread funding cuts, ballooning class sizes, lengthening workdays, and the Conservative government's emphasis on austerity in public education, thousands of teachers across England walked out of classes on Tuesday for a 24-hour nationwide strike.
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"I'm striking because the education system is terrible," a teacher named Lisa told the Guardian. "I work 60-hour weeks under immense pressure and all we face is cuts, cuts and more cuts. If we go on this way there will be no teaching assistants, resources or any extra support left for your children."
"We want to persuade the government that they have to invest in education, not keep cutting back on it," said National Union of Teachers chief Kevin Courtney.
The situation in the UK is indeed dire: state schools in England are predicted to lose nearly £1 billion in funding each year as a result of policies enacted under Conservative education secretary Nicky Morgan, one striking teacher writes in the Guardian.
As Courtney told The Independent:
The strike is about the underfunding of our schools and the negative impact it is having on children's education and teachers' terms and conditions.
Schools are facing the worst cuts in funding since the 1970s. The decisions which head teachers have to make are damaging to our children and young people's education. Class sizes going up, school trips reduced, materials and resources reduced, and subjects—particularly in the arts—are being removed from the curriculum. Teaching posts are being cut or not filled when staff leave. All of this just to balance the books.
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No parent wants this for their children. No teacher wants this for their school or pupils. With political parties in turmoil since the EU referendum, it is imperative that education is put to the forefront of every election campaign. The problems schools face need addressing immediately. We must not let the education of the next generation be sidelined.
Approximately 7,000 of England's 22,000 publicly-run state schools were affected by the strike.
While some British media outlets dismissed the teachers' actions as a "disruption"—and Morgan condemned the strike as "playing politics" and "unnecessary"—much of the public expressed solidarity with the union's actions on Twitter:
Solidarity to teachers striking for children's futures in Sheffield and UK. Schools and libraries are our future. pic.twitter.com/2j6U8XHQJB
— SCALP (@NoLibraryCuts) July 5, 2016
— Global Labour Inst. (@gli_uk) July 5, 2016
— Herstory Project (@herstory_uk) July 5, 2016
Meanwhile, social justice groups also held a simultaneous demonstration in London in support of the teachers, drawing connections between draconian austerity policies and growing anti-immigrant and racist sentiment in the UK and elsewhere.