On the picket line: 'This strike is for pupils too'

time:2023-06-02 12:37:30 source:CNN (Cable News Network)

Teachers across Northern Ireland are taking part in a strike that has led to the closure of most schools.

Members of all five teaching unions are on the picket line.

They told BBC Northern Ireland that they had no choice but to take industrial action.

They highlighted the difference in pay between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and warned that teachers could leave if conditions do not improve.

About 30 people joined the picket line outside St Brigid's College on the Glengalliagh Road in Londonderry.

Christopher Sandy has been a teacher for more than 15 years and says morale in the school is at "an all-time low".

"No-one wants to do this, but we haven't had a serious pay increase in over 10 years, since about 2011," he told BBC NI's North West Today.

"There are teachers in the school who, by the time they pay their childcare, increases in inflation with food, oil and everything else - there is nothing left at the end of the month out of their wage.

"I have A-level classes and I had to reschedule their exam for today. I didn't want to do that but enough is enough, we have to draw a line in the sand.

"I got into teaching because I loved it, but the profession is being diminished and it's about time we are recognised," he said.

Mr Sandy says teachers just across the border in the Republic of Ireland are on substantially better wages than those in Northern Ireland.

The only reason he remains a teacher in Northern Ireland is because he is "a local lad and a proud Derry man", he adds.

He wants to give back to his local community that he loves, but says the pressures teachers are under are "ridiculous and the pay does not reflect that".

Sally Rees, a teacher at Enniskillen Royal School and a member of NASUWT, says the strike is also about helping young people coming into the teaching profession.

"It is a vocation, but they deserve to be paid properly," she says.

"They are starting here on £24,000 - if they were in Scotland they'd be starting on £32,000, so there is no parity."

"I've been teaching for 26 years and what we've seen is a real increase in workload and class sizes and on the pressure to communicate day and night with our pupils," she says.

"The cost of living is soaring and our wages are plummeting."

She said the political situation in Northern Ireland was frustrating too.

Noreen Kelly from St Dallan's Primary School, Warrenpoint says the strike is "a last resort to demand an annual cost-of-living increase".

"No teacher here wants to be on strike," adds Ms Kelly, a member of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO).

"We want to make the message very clear. Our action is not against our parents or children. Our action is for our children.

"We must be valued, respected and remunerated and our education system adequately funded."

She said the teachers were on strike for the sake of their pupils also.

"The cuts that are happening in our education system - we have to take a stand.

"In the absence of our elected representatives in our devolved government taking action, we are being forced today to take this action.

We don't want to be doing this and it is a shameful disgrace that we are in this position today."​

Recommended content