TEACHERS who say they just “want enough money to put food on the table" took to the picket line outside a city centre college this morning.

Staff at Colchester Sixth Form College, in North Hill, took part in a National Education Union strike over pay, recruitment and a lack of funding for students.

During the demonstration they held aloft banners and placards citing the reasons behind the walkout, while protest songs played out in the background.

Madeline Robinson, who has been a chemistry teacher at Colchester Sixth Form College for more than 30 years, was one of the unionists on the picket line.


She said: “There has been an erosion in teacher pay and it is very difficult for young teachers who are joining to make ends meet.

“In real-terms, with inflation, there has been a significant drop in pay and it worries me for the future of the profession.

“I don’t know how we are going to continue retaining teachers because nationally I think something like a third of all teachers do not make it past five years.

“That is because of the stresses of the job and the lack of pay. We need to be investing in our future and so I am doing this for the long term future.

“The cuts to children’s education are far more damaging than a strike, as unfortunate as it is to do this, but we have no alternative because we are not being listened to.”

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Among other concerns, members of the National Education Union voted to down tools after suffering what they say is a real-terms pay cut of 23 per cent since 2010.

Steve Blay, also an employee at the college, has taught Physics and Maths for more than 20 years, but says he has never been more worried.


He added: “Over the past 13 years we have seen continual underfunding of education.

“But teachers are now being made to look like the bad guys because we want enough money to be able to put food on the table for our families.

“We’re not the ones causing problems – if you want high quality education you need high quality teachers, but you are only going to get them if you pay them a decent salary. 

“Students missing one day is a small thing but what has the most effect is cuts year on year and teachers having bigger workloads and fewer resources to work with.”


A campaigning councillor also threw his support behind teachers on the picket line this morning, stressing: “Funding cuts damage children a hell of a lot more than a strike.”

Mark Goacher, Colchester councillor for Castle Ward, headed to Colchester Sixth Form College, in North Hill, to rally behind striking staff.

In the true spirit of activism he held up a huge cardboard sign in the direction of tooting drivers as they whizzed past the picketing education workers.

Although he said recruitment and a pay increase for the National Education Union members was incredibly important, he also raised other concerns.

He said: “You are getting a lot of teaching going on from non-specialists, so maths is being taught by people without a maths degree.

“But this is also about funding cuts which are a big issue for sixth form colleges. Since 2010 funding has gone down by between 50 and 60 per cent per student.

“This means everything is stripped down to the bone and if people retire that is how you avoid redundancies. You reduce staffing but you are lowing quality.

“So it comes down to whether people want education on the cheap and want it impacting on the children’s education.

“People will say going on strike for one day damages the children but funding cuts damage them a hell of a lot more.”