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Suffolk: Leader of Labour group at county council to join NUT at strike rally in Ipswich as teachers walk out tomorrow in protest over changes to pay

PUBLISHED: 14:28 25 March 2014 | UPDATED: 14:28 25 March 2014

Sandy Martin (Labour), Suffolk county councillor for Ipswich St Johns

Sandy Martin (Labour), Suffolk county councillor for Ipswich St Johns

Archant

The leader of the Labour group at Suffolk County Council will join members of the National Union of Teachers at a teachers’ strike rally tomorrow.

The strike has been called by the union to protest against proposed changes to teachers’ pay and conditions.

Councillor Sandy Martin said, “There are real concerns about the way teachers and education are being dealt with in this country” and added that the Labour group “share those concerns”.

However he declined to state whether he was in support of the strike, saying: “It’s not my decision one way or the other.”

Mr Martin said he appreciated the concern over the disruption the strike would cause.

“However the disruption that is being caused to education in this country by such things as the academies programme, the free schools programme, dismantling the local education authorities, under-funding of school transport, changing the exam set-up, continuing talk about changing the curriculum, all of those things are actually far more disruptive to pupils’ ability to get a good education than one day of strike action,” he said.

“I think raising the issue about what is going on in education is well worth doing. I’m not going to attack the strike or say they shouldn’t be doing it.”

Teachers from Suffolk will hold a rally and march in Ipswich on the day of the strike, assembling in Giles Circus at 10.30am and finishing at the Cornhill.

The dispute centres on the introduction of a performance-related pay structure and a tougher pensions package which would see them receive their pension at the age of 67.

NASUWT has joined the NUT on the last two national strikes, but will not be striking on Wednesday.

The secretary of Suffolk NUT, Graham White, claimed there to be “unanimity” of opposition to the reforms among teachers and said he was “disappointed” that the NASUWT wouldn’t strike.

“It looks to me that there will be a number of schools closed and a number partly closed,” he said.

“I’m not aware of any schools being completely unaffected. There is still time to get people and I’m very hopeful.

“It’s very regrettable that we need to take this action but we are left with no option, we are still waiting for Mr Gove to get around the table and discuss these proposals.

“There has been a meeting with the Department of Education to which Mr Gove did not turn up. He is not prepared to discuss the dispute.

“He’s prepared to discuss how we implement the pension changes but not whether they should be implemented, which seems to me not to be a very helpful attitude.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said: “Parents will struggle to understand why the NUT is pressing ahead with strikes over the Government’s measures to let heads pay good teachers more.

“They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and talks have been taking place weekly.

“Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is taking action that will disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession.”

Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said: “This is a national argument between the unions and the government and Suffolk children should not be dragged into it. Many people will ask how teachers can justify going on strike over pay and workload concerns at the same time as wanting to improve educational attainment.

“On the relatively rare occasions that teachers go on strike, we support heads and encourage them to plan ahead and aim to keep schools open wherever possible. We know that many teachers won’t actually want to strike and will work with heads to keep their schools running.

“In the meantime, we’d advise parents to check with their schools, on the county council’s website or in the local media - before sending their children to school.

“We would also urge negotiation and discussion rather than strike action and hope to see as many Suffolk schools as possible remain open.”

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