More than 130 people rallied in Commercial Road to show their support and solidarity for striking teachers.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) had called the one day strike as part of the on-going battle to protect pay, pensions and conditions – with thousands of schools closing for the day as a result. The government’s plans for performance related pay and raising the retirement age to 68 are further assaults on a group of workers already under enormous pressure. Teachers can expect to work up to 60 hours a week – and the stresses and strains are so high that 40% of people leave the profession in the first five years of teaching.
Amanda Martin from Portsmouth NUT told the rally, “We’re here to protest bureaucracy. We’re here to protest about performance related pay. Teachers work as a team. We don’t want to be picked off and forced into competition with each other. What one teacher does for one child, the next teacher wants to build on.
“But will Mr Gove listen? Mr Gove says ‘No’.”
Another speaker, Helen Reader, in one of the best and funniest speeches ever heard at a strike rally in the city, emphasised just how long teachers are expected to work: “How can they expect me to work until I’m 68 or 70 or maybe even 80 by the time I get to retirement age? It’s bad enough getting up in the morning as it is. And I never plan anything for Friday night cos by 8 o’clock I’m in my jammies, dribbling into my wine!”
Young teacher officer, Laura Chisholm summed up how many new teachers feel: “I’m fed up. I’m fearful. But I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that we as a trade union can make a change for education.“
Members of the PCS, Unite and Unison unions gave speeches offering their solidarity and stressed the need for united action across the public sector to resist the government.
But the strike was about more than terms and conditions – it was a rage against the ConDem government’s continued ideological attacks on education. “This is for children,” said Amanda Martin. “And as you can see from our Stand Up for Education campaign – this is exactly what we’re trying to do.”
“We want to ensure that every classroom has a qualified teacher. We want to allow councils, like Portsmouth Local Authority, to open up their own schools. We want to make sure that the changes to the curriculum are positive and planned. We have the most tested kids in Europe, and we have the saddest kids in Europe.”
The local paper, The News, has reported the strike by claiming teachers have caused “chaos” by taking industrial action. But the real chaos is being caused by Education Secretary Michael Gove. He’s the one that is allowing businesses to run our schools; he’s the one that wants to rip up the national pay framework; he’s the one that is subjecting our children to a never-ending series of tests. The sooner he and his Conservative cronies are removed the better.
Solidarity to all the striking teachers!