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Saturday, 11 April, 1998, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Teachers call for strikes
Teachers complain they are overworked and underpayed
Members of Britain's largest teachers' union, the National Union of Teachers, have voted to hold a national day of action and to stage strike ballots in sixth form colleges where jobs are threatened.

NUT members at the annual conference in Blackpool have also been hearing calls for industrial action at other schools, but the NUT leadership has warned against 'political posturing'.

Less than a year after the general election, many teachers say their conditions are still deteriorating, especially in sixth form colleges.

Members are seeking a new national contract for teachers, which the union declared itself in favour of a year ago.

Demands include a cap on all class sizes, limits to the number and length of after-school meetings, and an entitlement to a lunch break of at least one hour.

But the NUT leadership has warned members that striking is not the way to achieve their end, and urged negotiation instead.

Leaders urged delegates not to dismiss the advances already made under the Labour Government.

'We have had enough'

But angry teachers accused Education Secretary David Blunkett and Prime Minister Tony Blair of preparing to attack their working conditions.

Kate Ford, a teacher from Hackney, east London, said: "We have to send a clear message to the government."

"They have been in office for a year, and we have had enough. We are going to fight for our schools and we are going to fight for our children."

Manchester teacher Irene Davies said direct action was the "only way to persuade Tony Blair and David Blunkett to do something" about teacher workload - otherwise, they would not listen.

"Labour is a listening government - but it's listening to Rupert Murdoch and Bernie Ecclestone and the countryside lobby. It isn't listening to the hundreds of thousands of teachers who voted them into office," she said.

"David Blunkett may come here with fine words next week, but that will not be enough.

"His fine words last year said there would be no selection under a Labour government. That clearly isn't the case."

The debate on working conditions was suspended after delegates ran out of time.

But a vote is expected next week on whether to hold industrial action in support of a decreased workload for teachers.

BBC News
BBC Education Correspondent reports on the progress from Blackpool
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