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Shrewsbury college staff set to walk out on strike

By Dominic Robertson | Shrewsbury | Education | Published:

Staff at a Shropshire college are set to strike for the second time in a month.

Shrewsbury College's London Road campus. Photo: Google StreetView

Members of the National Education Union (NEU) at Shrewsbury Colleges Group were today expected to walk out in a national dispute over pay and working conditions.

The NEU wants the government to make sure that pay for sixth form college teachers and support staff matches that in schools.

The union is also demanding action on what it says is "workload and job losses caused by underfunding".

Members of the union at the college took action last month over the dispute. Campaigners set up picket lines at the London Road, English Bridge and the Welsh Bridge campuses.

Speaking about the latest action, which is being repeated at colleges across the country, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, 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 and ensure future generations have the choice and opportunity for study that our local sixth form provides.

“With a general election on the 12 December we also want prospective parliamentary candidates to support our call for higher funding of our sixth form colleges as a priority for their party.”

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James Staniforth, Principal of Shrewsbury Colleges Group, said: “This is a national dispute between the NEU (National Education Union) and the Secretary of State for Education and is in relation to the pay, working conditions and security of employment of NEU members in the sixth form college sector. 

"The NEU are taking action nationally on a college by college basis depending on whether an individual sixth form college has met the ballot threshold for action. This was achieved in 25 of the 85 sixth form colleges where ballots took place, including the two sixth form colleges closest to us, Hereford Sixth Form College and King Edward VI, Stourbridge. 

“Although we believe these issues should be addressed by the Secretary of State through increasing funding, the college cannot condone any disruption to our students’ education.  The government announced some additional funding for sixth form education in August and are unlikely to make any further changes before Brexit is concluded and/or there is a general election. 

"Although further funding is necessary, SCG has always budgeted so that staff have received the national pay award agreed between the Sixth Form College Association and the unions. We have also taken a number of steps to reduce work load and to support staff well-being. We have not made any teachers redundant.

“It is important to stress that the College and all of its services, including catering and transport, will remain open and that the vast majority of lessons will continue as normal. We have communicated this to parents/carers and students are being advised that if their teacher is on strike they can use the college libraries, access on-line study materials through the college Virtual Learning Environment and make use of specialist facilities under supervision.”

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