‘More than 90pc’ of Hackney schools forced to close as strikes hit London

Hackney teachers march on parliament

Hackney teachers march on parliament - Credit: Archant

More than 90pc of Hackney schools are closed today, as 1,600 local teachers march on Westminster over pensions, pay and conditions alongside other public sector workers.

The Hackney branch of the NUT on strike last year

The Hackney branch of the NUT on strike last year - Credit: Archant

As schools closed down, many parents were left angry and complained of double standards in light of controversial fines for parents who take their children out of school for the day.

Meanwhile, teachers rallied together to fight against changes made by Michael Gove, the Tory education secretary- which has seen teacher’s wages rise well below the rate of inflation.

The last rally in March was met with cries of ‘Get Gove Out’, as staff and parents from dozens of local schools joined the march across London, with only a handful left open.

Akhtar Chochar, a teacher at Urswick School, said: “At the end of the day, we are here to claim our students’ right to education. Students in our borough are already disadvantaged and now they’re further disadvantaged because of the curriculum. Plus, performance-related pay is an injustice for young teachers.”

Another Urswick School teacher added: “We’re striking for our pensions, yes, but also for the future of our school.”

Controversy surrounds the strike once again, as parents are forced to desperately find childcare.

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Supporter Damien Greenwood, a father of one from Hackney Wick, said: “I don’t want my son taught by undervalued, overworked people. I fully support the strike. My parents stepped up to have him for the day.”

But some residents expressed their anger at the strike, saying it was “ridiculous” and that teachers get holidays and generous pensions.

Andy Wirral, a parent from Hackney Central, complained bitterly at the “three months’ paid holiday” teachers get.

He added: “Teachers have nice fat pensions too, if only I was so lucky.”

60-hour working weeks and performance-related pay are just some of the NUT’s complaints, which Mr Chochar said left young teachers “out of pocket.”

More frequent examinations for younger children also came under fire, with parents saying they “branded children a failure”.

Hackney’s two free schools, the Olive School and Hackney New School, have remained open, as they did during the last strike.

On the eve of the March strike, Philippa De’Ath from Hackney New School said: “Our teachers care about education. The school is open and teachers are working. Those that are on strike have chosen to do so on their own grounds.”

But Hackney’s NUT representative Jamie Duff defended the strike.

He said: “‘The fact that more schools are affected by strike action than during previous strikes is a clear indication of the strength of feeling among teachers. The teachers of Hackney and beyond will not stand by and let this government destroy the state education system.”

The effect on parents at the moment is uncertain, but views during the last strike were polarised.

Mother Lily Smith, who has three children at Haggerston’s Queensbridge Primary School, said teachers are “absolutely undervalued.”

She said: “They don’t get paid as much as they should do for the hours they put in. They’re working to shape our children.

“They don’t like forcing the headteacher to close the school, but they do what’s best for the children.”

Meanwhile mother of one Sonya Gates, whose child attends Queensbridge Primary School, said: “It was inconvenient because I’m a student as well as a mother, so I had to take a whole day off from university.”