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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Teachers to take to Cumbria's streets in dispute

Teachers are set to take to the streets of Cumbria to convince parents why they are preparing to join a new wave of industrial action.

Alan Rutter photo
Alan Rutter

Two leading teaching unions – the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT – are to separately step up their campaigns over the summer term, which starts in Cumbria tomorrow.

A senior NUT leader says many of his county members are prepared to man ‘Stand Up for Education’ campaign stalls in towns and city centres in the coming weeks as part of its bitter battle with Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Cumbria branch secretary Alan Rutter, who is also a member of the NUT’s national executive, spoke yesterday just after delegates at the union’s annual conference in Brighton overwhelmingly backed a motion to step up action.

The priority motion calls on the union to co-ordinate national strike action in the week beginning Monday, June 23 if “significant” progress is not made in resolving the long-running dispute.

The NUT has said it would not rule out more than one day of strikes and the resolution also left the door open for further action in the autumn.

Widespread disruption is likely and teaching union leaders have been quick to say that affected members would be exempt from taking action if they had pupils sitting exams.

Mr Rutter, talking from outside the debating hall in Brighton, said: “People pick up on the bit about strike action, but in fact calls for an intense programme of strikes were defeated.

“Actually, this priority motion is not just about teachers going out on strike. It is also about a whole host of other considered measures.”

Mr Rutter explained how his members in Cumbria have a renewed interest in taking action.

He said: “It has been done in other parts of the country and there was never really a call in Cumbria before but what we’re looking to do in the county after Easter is man a series of stalls in towns and city centres.

“Members, many of whom have never really taken action like this before, have said they would be happy to man them. They are so incensed about what is happening that they are willing to make that contribution.

“They believe it will give them an opportunity to speak to members of the public.”

He added: “The fight is against the Government. We’re not trying to make it difficult for schools, children or parents. It is effectively about winning their hearts and minds. We are not going to get support by going on strike every Thursday for a month.”

Mr Rutter also spoke of his disappointment that another large union – the NASUWT – has agreed to continue its own campaign of industrial action, but would not be doing so in conjunction with the NUT.

The unions’ bitter row with the Government is about changes to pay, pensions and working terms and conditions.

The Department for Education has condemned the union moves.

A spokesman says ministers have met frequently with the unions and will continue to do so, adding that further strike action “will only disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession”.

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