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The Responsibility for Teachers Taking Strike Action Rests With Michael Gove

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Teachers care about the children and young people they teach.

Teachers' pay and conditions of service are inextricably linked to providing high standards of education. All children and young people are entitled to be taught by those who are recognised and rewarded as highly skilled professionals and have working conditions which enable them to focus on teaching and learning.

The national pay structure and contractual provisions which teachers have currently have been instrumental in securing high rankings for our public education service in international league tables. Our schools are in the top six of the highest performing countries in education in the world and second in Europe. Our schools are world class - a fact which is an inconvenient truth for the Secretary of State for Education.

Over the last three years the Coalition Government has mounted savage attacks on teachers' pay, pensions and conditions of service. To justify these attacks and education reforms, the Secretary of State has sought to denigrate teachers and present our public education system as broken. As a result the teaching profession is now in crisis.

An NASUWT survey of members conducted in March 2013 shows that over half of teachers are now seriously considering leaving the profession and that three quarters of teachers feel professionally disempowered. Recruitment into initial teacher training is plummeting and resignations from the profession are at an all-time high.

NASUWT and NUT members in the North West of England will be staging a day of strike action on Thursday, the first in a planned series of strikes across England and Wales before the end of the year. Teachers have been driven to industrial action by a Secretary of State who arrogantly and recklessly refuses to listen to the concerns of the profession.

All attempts to engage constructively have been rebuffed by a Secretary of State who has no interest in any views from any quarter unless they coincide with his own.

The NASUWT has sought to ensure that the industrial action has been pupil, parent and public friendly, concentrating on in-school strategies to enable teachers to focus on teaching and learning.

Not a single child has had their education disrupted by the NASUWT and NUT's action short of strike action, but the attacks on pay, pensions, working conditions and jobs have continued, the Secretary of State has failed to listen or respond positively and therefore the industrial action now regrettably has to be escalated to include strike action.

No teacher embarks on strike action lightly. No teacher has any wish to inconvenience pupils or parents or disrupt the provision of education but a strong stand now must be made to protect the pay and conditions of service which make our schools world class. A stand must be made to defend the jobs of specialist teachers which are being lost as a result of cuts and curriculum reform and to ensure that all children are taught by qualified teachers. A stand must be made to resist excessive bureaucracy which is diverting teachers from their core role of focusing on teaching and learning. In short, teachers are standing up for standards.

The NASUWT knows that many parents share the deep concerns of teachers about the Coalition's education policy.

Only a few weeks ago hundreds of parents, ordinary families and members of the public joined teachers from across the North West in packed out venues in Liverpool and Manchester to share their deep concerns and fears about the Coalition Government's education policies and their impact on children and young people.

It was clear from the passionate display of feeling from those attending that concern is turning to anger.

Parents movingly described the despair of seeing their children's life chances being stripped away.

Articulate and thoughtful young people, who are a credit to our public education system, described their frustration as doors to higher education and employment have been slammed shut in their face through the abolition of financial support and the fear of lifetime debt.

So whilst parents may be concerned about teachers taking strike action many will understand and share their anger and frustration. They also recognise that like them teachers are parents too and would not be taking this action lightly. All parents know that attacks on teachers are attacks on their children.

The responsibility for driving teachers to take industrial action rests entirely with an arrogant, reckless Secretary of State who is determined to sacrifice teachers, pupils and our public education service on the altar of his own flawed ideology.

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