'It's a shame pupils pay the price' - teachers swap classroom for Exeter picket line

Montgomery Primary School in Exeter has stayed open today Credit: ITV News

Hundreds of schools have been closed across the region as teachers walk out in the first of four planned days of strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions.

At Montgomery Primary School in Exeter, staff have managed to stay open to reduce disruption for children as much as possible.

Teacher Ian Bruce said: "We've had so much support from the parents, we've had cheers and claps and even doughnuts delivered.

"I think they realise we're in a recruitment and a retention crisis in schools.

"40% of secondary school places have not been filled, 30% of teachers leave within five years of going into the profession, so that's just not sustainable.

"I think they realise this, they support us and they know how much we care about their children and ultimately we're doing this for them."

Mr Bruce also said the children understand the situation: "We have explained that we won't be in today and we've explained the reasons why and they agreed with us, they want the best things for them.

"They want all those fun trips and all of the resources we have at schools and to have that, we need to be fully funded.

Parents who spoke to ITV News West Country said, while Montgomery Primary School has managed to stay open, it is the students who are impacted: "I support the teachers striking because I think it's really unfortunate and unfair that the government have, to some degree given them a level of pay increase, however they haven't funded the schools appropriately to deal with that.

"They've got so much going on, they've got children with psychological well-being coming out of the back of Covid that needs extra work that they're not getting the funding or support for.

"Luckily not here, our school is open, but I have a son who is at home with e-learning, getting ready to do his GCSEs so I understand the point of a strike is to cause maximum disruption, however, I think it's really unfortunate that yet again our children are paying the price for it."

Parents have their say on the strikes

Hannah Packham, South West Regional Secretary for the National Education Union, said 

“Thousands of members across the South West have made clear today that education requires serious attention by government.

"Our members have taken a stand today for a fully funded, above-inflation pay rise because the profession cannot go on like this.

"Parents know the consequences of persistent underfunding, both for their school/college and for their child.

"This strike should not be necessary, and we regret the disruption caused to parents and pupils, but our aims are in the interests of everyone in the education community.

"We're in a recruitment and a retention crisis in schools." Credit: ITV News

“The Government could not expect strikes to be averted unless it brings forward concrete proposals for increasing pay.

"Experienced teachers have seen a 23% real-terms pay cut since 2010. Given the current cost-of-living crisis, rising inflation, and, especially felt in the South West with the cost of accommodation, this is clearly an unsustainable situation for our members."

Under pressure in Westminster today, the Prime Minister says the strikes are wrong and as far as schools are concerned the Government is increasing pay: "When it comes to teachers we've actually given teachers the highest pay rise in 30 years.

"That includes a 9% pay rise for newly qualified teachers and record investment in their training and development.

"I am clear that our children's education is precious and they deserve to be in school today."