Nearly 2,000 teachers gathered in Durham yesterday to protest against Government changes to pay, pensions and the curriculum.
Teachers marched through the city centre, which formed the focal point of the region’s protest.
Organised by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT, yesterday’s march saw union members from across Northumberland, Newcastle, Tyneside and County Durham gather in the historic city and in other marches across the region.
The march, which set off from Millennium Square at 10am, headed through the city centre before ending with a rally at Durham University’s students union.
In a rousing speech to around 1,800 teachers and union members, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “This coalition Government has shown nothing but contempt for teachers and other working people.
“Ordinary workers, like ourselves, are having to pay the price for an economic crisis that we didn’t create. There is no mandate for this country to butcher our public services. We’ve had enough of an education policy which is stifling rather than supporting the aspirations of working-class children.
“Our children and young people have lost the entitlement of being taught by a qualified teacher. We’ve seen teachers’ jobs in the creative subjects lost simply to score points on league tables, rather than focussing on a child’s development.”
Union bosses claim teachers have seen a real-terms pay cut of 15% over the last three years while their monthly pension contributions have risen by up to £100 per month with the pension age increasing to 68. The decision to close the school gates fell to individual schools with heads left to judge the impact of the strike. While more than 470 schools in the region decided to close to students others were able to open or partially open.
Chris McHugh, a secondary school teacher at St Robert’s in Washington, accused Mr Gove of “declaring war” on his profession. “He’s slashing our pensions but making us pay more into the pot,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education (DfE) said: “The NUT and NASUWT have tried to create as much disruption for pupils and parents today as possible. All strikes do is disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession.”