Hackney sixth form teachers strike over government’s ‘unnecessary attacks’ on colleges

Striking teachers at Brooke House sixth form college

Striking teachers at Brooke House sixth form college - Credit: Archant

Almost a hundred disillusioned sixth form teachers in Hackney walked out yesterday over government cuts to pay, conditions and employment.

Striking teachers at Brooke House sixth form college

Striking teachers at Brooke House sixth form college - Credit: Archant

Teachers from BSix Sixth Form College, in Kenninghall Road, Upper Clapton, gathered outside the centre to protest at what they believe to be a lack of investment into post-16 education.

Creative industries teacher Fiona O’Connor said: “Sixth form colleges are an essential part of the community.

“They provide comprehensive education for young people, in an environment where school sixth forms are becoming increasingly selective.

“Where would these young Hackney students go if we were not here? That’s why we’re striking.”

The protest, organised by the National Union of Teachers, was given the go-ahead by the High Court on Monday despite government attempts to block it.

As a result of the strike, BSix College – along with sixth form colleges across the country – was closed for the day.

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Student Lauren Pemberton-Nelson said: “Sixth forms are vital for many students as one type does not fit all and sixth forms in schools are not always the best for everyone. But I guess since most politicians were privately educated they don’t understand.

“The cutting of funding is ridiculous and the fact they do not ask our opinion shows that they really don’t care.”

The NUT is demanding the government restore funding for 16- to 19-year-olds to pre-2010 levels and apply VAT exemptions to all colleges regardless of whether they have academy status. Currently, Sixth Form colleges are required to pay VAT on their purchases while schools and academies are reimbursed for these costs.

They also want sixth form colleges recognised for their achievements rather than threatened with closure or mergers.

Jamie Duff, president of Hackney NUT, said: “The attempt to stop the strike through the courts shows how desperate the government are to stop teachers resisting attacks on their pay, conditions and employment. This sorry attempt to bully teachers prepared to stand up for education has failed.

“The working conditions of a teacher are the learning environment of a student – teachers will not stand by and let this government continue its unnecessary attacks on sixth form colleges.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We recognise the importance of investing in education which is why, thanks to the difficult decisions we have taken elsewhere, we have been able to protect core 16 to 19 funding. At the same time we have ended the unfair difference between post-16 schools and colleges by funding them per student to ensure that all young people leave education with the skills they need to thrive in modern Britain.”