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Teachers United against Gove's 'vision'

Thousands rally against Tory attack on teachers

Education Secretary Michael Gove was left isolated yesterday after teachers, parents and pupils marched in their thousands against his backward policies.

Mr Gove has dodged the strikes by taking a little-heralded "fact-finding" jaunt over in the US this week, but massive protest rallies across England sent a message he couldn't avoid.

Hundreds of schools were reported closed. Over 12,000 people took part in a noisy procession through the streets of central London while thousands more turned out in Bristol and Durham.

NUT leader Christine Blower labelled the latest round of action a "great success" and said it was an "indication of the anger and concern" over Mr Gove's plans.

Attacks on teacher's pay and pensions, axing the right of children to be taught by qualified teachers and the chaos caused by free schools are among the most damaging of his policies.

Ms Blower said Mr Gove's "campaign is about driving down pay, driving down standards and ultimately it's just about privatisation."

And she warned a packed Westminster rally that "children's lives are being ruined" by his "relentless attacks on teachers" and "breathtaking disregard of evidence."

Speaking with her young daughter alongside her, NASUWT union member, teacher and school governor Chloe Docherty explained the fallout on the frontline.

"The goal posts are constantly shifted, our workload has increased and assessment changes every five minutes," she said.

"We face this daily uncertainty with headline after headline attacking the children and teachers - they are sapping the joy out of the classroom."

So many teachers and families joined the action that they were still winding their way past Trafalgar Square as speeches were being given.

A Department for Education spokesman said "all strikes do is disrupt parents' lives" and "hold back children's education."

But teachers won support on the streets yesterday from parents, passers-by and even Mr Gove's own civil servants, who cheered as the march passed the Department for Education.

A policy adviser and PCS union member told the Star that department staff were "in solidarity with our fellow workers."

Speaking from the podium in London, TUC deputy general secretary Paul Novak praised teachers for their "historic" resistance to Mr Gove's attacks.

He said: "What's happening in our schools is symptomatic of what this government is doing to all of our public services - a nasty cocktail of top-down, ideologically driven reform, cost-saving and cuts."

And NASUWT officer Suzanne Nantcurvis revealed the number of people applying to become teachers is down by 30 per cent and teachers are retiring at record rates as a result.

She added defiantly: "We'VE had enough of the myths, the distortians and the downright lies.

"We're in this for the duration."

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