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Teachers on strike march through Oxford

Teachers on strike took to Oxford’s streets on Thursday afternoon with drums, whistles and placards in hand.

This National Education Union (NEU) strike-day was the fifth since 1st February. The protest began with a rally in the Oxford Town Hall and proceeded through the centre to congregate with a second rally on Broad Street. Oxford was one of four organised NEU rally locations. 

Alongside veteran protesters, ralliers included first-time strikers and another who is on strike for the fifth time in eighteen years. This teacher said that the greatest deficit was in the lack of funding for teaching assistants who work with children who have Special Educational Needs (SEN). The teacher, based in Banbury, told Cherwell that it was about time teachers received a response from the government that matched the educational workforce’s effort. 

The NEU General Secretaries, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, have criticised the Education Secretary: “Gillian Keegan is failing to address the multiple problems damaging our children’s education – around teacher recruitment and retention problems, and inadequate school funding. She has been told by the profession – and a significant majority of the profession – that her pay and funding offer is not good enough.”

A local primary school teacher said she had been to all five of the strike protests. She decried the lack of governmental interest in resolution: “She [Gillian Keegan, Secretary of State for Education] hasn’t even acknowledged the protests.”

She told Cherwell that her daughter left the teaching profession at around the time the first strikes started as a result of unmanageable teaching conditions, and intends to protest until there is a pay raise that is fully funded.

If there is “no fully-funded pay rise, of course we’ll keep striking”, another teacher on strike said, adding that “the only way the government will know [that their response is dissatisfactory] is if we set up picket lines”.

One of the speakers declared that “there is nothing you can pay me to make me cross a picket” which landed with a resounding cheer. The rally was also keen to emphasise its solidarity with striking nursing and communication services unions.

The NEU has stated that “this coming week, NEU members are acting to make the Government see sense and improve its offer to teachers.” The NEU will hold another national strike on Tuesday.

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