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'We've had enough': BSix staff strike over 'intolerable' workloads, job losses, pay and funding

PUBLISHED: 17:12 18 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:12 18 October 2019

Teachers at BSix went on strike. Picture: National Education Union

Teachers at BSix went on strike. Picture: National Education Union

National Education Union

Teachers at BSix went on strike yesterday, warning that sixth form colleges are "on the brink" after years of cuts.

Teachers at BSix went on strike. Picture: National Education UnionTeachers at BSix went on strike. Picture: National Education Union

Action at the college in Kenninghall Road, Lower Clapton, over pay and funding, was replicated at 27 other institutions around the country.

A recent Institute for Fiscal Studies report shows the sixth form sector has suffered the largest cuts to funding compared to other education sectors.

While school teachers have been awarded a pay rise of 2.75pc, sixth form college teachers have been offered just 1pc, and teachers now earn 15pc less in real terms since 2010.

The report concluded it would take £1.1bn funding to repair the damage done over the last decade.

Jamie Duff, from the Hackney National Education Union said the strike was the first in a "wave of escalating action", after years of budget cuts, redundancies of both teaching and support staff, and cuts to student services like counselling, careers advice and extra-curricular enrichment.

"Sixth Form Colleges are on the brink," he said.

"The remaining staff are facing intolerable workloads.

"Sixth Form College teachers have had enough - they are sick of working more for less. They can see the damage that the funding cuts have done to teachers and students and are striking to defend the sector and the young people they teach.

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"If this government is serious about investing in the future why not invest properly in our young people?" he asked.

BSix College Principal Kevin Watson apologized for the disruption but expressed sympathy with the Union's dissatisfaction.

"In recent years financial pressures have been the root cause of job losses, cuts to the curriculum and restrictions on what we can spend on a range of facilities in need of modernization," he said.

"Equally a fall in the salaries of college teachers relative to school teachers has not helped us to continue attracting and retaining the best possible staff."

Education Minister Michelle Donelan said it was "very disappointing" that the NEU had decided to take strike action.

She said: "With the NEU only gaining threshold support in 25 out of 87 colleges where they balloted for strikes, it is clear that this strike does not have the wholehearted support of union members.

"The decision to strike is especially discouraging given that we have committed to increasing 16-19 funding in the 2020/21 academic year by £400m - the biggest injection of new money in a single year since 2010.

"This is in addition to funding the additional costs of pension schemes in 2020/21.

"We are committed to an ongoing dialogue with the NEU and I have already met with the joint general secretaries to discuss how we can avoid disruptive strike action in the future."

Despite an extra £400m for the sector for 2020/21, the per-student spend is over 20pc less than its 2010/11 level.

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