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NewVic teachers join national strike against post-16 education funding cuts

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:55 17 October 2019

NewVic branch of the NEU representative Rob Behan addresses striking teachers outside the Plaistow college. Picture: Andrew Brookes

NewVic branch of the NEU representative Rob Behan addresses striking teachers outside the Plaistow college. Picture: Andrew Brookes

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Newham Sixth Form College (NewVic) teachers went on strike today (Thursday, October 17) as part of a national campaign around pay and working conditions.

NEU members from Newham Sixth Form College went on strike today as part of national industrial action by the union. Picture: Andrew BrookesNEU members from Newham Sixth Form College went on strike today as part of national industrial action by the union. Picture: Andrew Brookes

It's part of industrial action being taken by National Education Union (NEU) members at 25 sixth form colleges protesting against sustained post-16 education funding cuts.

Around 30 NewVic teachers held a demonstration outside the Plaistow college this morning before heading to Westminster to joining a union rally from 1pm.

Staff will march from the Emmanuel Centre to the Department for Education (DfE) Sanctuary Buildings to present an outstanding invoice for money that is "still needed for the Post-16 sector and not covered by promises made by Boris Johnson".

NEU says its members are taking action to "secure the funding needed to sustain fair pay, conditions and employment including reversing job losses, class size increases and cuts to teaching time and curriculum provision."

Around 30 NEU members held a demonstration outside NewVic before joining a rally in central London. Picture: Andrew BrookesAround 30 NEU members held a demonstration outside NewVic before joining a rally in central London. Picture: Andrew Brookes

NewVic branch NEU representative Catherine Cleary said "breaking point" has been reached after a decade of cuts.

She said: "For the last 10 years, we've had a pay cut every year and also funding cuts every year.

"Now we're losing essential services like pastoral care, special educational needs support and various other ways we can't even calculate yet - we might not see the true damage of this for a few years, but we're at breaking point.

"It's important for us to actually be visible, loud and proud, when it comes to industrial action as our democratic right."

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The teaching union claims there is currently a £700 million shortfall in funding for post-16 education, which it says is impacting students' education and putting the future of sixth form colleges under threat.

Today is the first in a series of planned strike days, with two more to be held on November 5 and 20 if considered necessary.

NEU Newham joint secretary Louise Cuffaro said: "Sixth form colleges have always been a beacon of quality, but funding cuts have had a savage impact on pay, conditions and jobs and have driven far too many colleges towards merger or closure.

"Strike action is always a last option but our members believe that it is necessary in order to solve our dispute and help save the sector."

Education Minister Michelle Donelan said it was "very disappointing" that the NEU had decided to take strike action.

She said: "With the NEU only gaining threshold support in 25 out of 87 colleges where they balloted for strikes, it is clear that this strike does not have the wholehearted support of union members.

"The decision to strike is especially discouraging given that we have committed to increasing 16-19 funding in the 2020/21 academic year by £400 million - the biggest injection of new money in a single year since 2010.

"This is in addition to funding the additional costs of pension schemes in 2020/21.

"We are committed to an ongoing dialogue with the NEU and I have already met with the joint general secretaries to discuss how we can avoid disruptive strike action in the future."

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