Staff at Wigan sixth form college on picket line in national strike over under-funding and pay

The picket line at St John Rigby CollegeThe picket line at St John Rigby College
The picket line at St John Rigby College
Employees at a Wigan sixth form college were on the picket line in a dispute over funding of the sector, working conditions and pay.

Strike action is taking place at St John Rigby College today (Thursday) as employees at 25 sixth form institutions across England down tools in a National Education Union (NEU) dispute.

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A total of 57 members of staff at the Gathurst Road college are on strike.

The college is now on its half-term break as it is closed to students today and there will be an inset day on Friday.

Drivers wanting to show their support honked their horns as they drove past the picket line this morning.

Those taking part in the strike said industrial action was a last resort but the under-funding of dedicated sixth form colleges could not go on as the experience of students is being affected.

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Chris Boyle, a law lecturer and NEU rep at the college, said: "This is a national funding issue. Funding is down 22 per cent since 2010. It's got nothing to do with our college in particular.

"Nobody wants to be out on strike and it was a very difficult decision to make but we need to make our voices heard. It is important we stand up on this issue.

"This is about the sector. Once you get to the 16-to-19 age group colleges are under-funded and the student experience is suffering.

"Sixth form colleges are very important to Wigan. There's only a couple of schools which have sixth forms and we have two outstanding colleges in the sector. They will go from strength to strength with the funding they deserve."

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Max Atkins, NEU Wigan and District branch secretary, said: "We've had nine years of under-funding by the government. They've offered £400m next year, which might not even materialise depending on what happens in the next couple of weeks, and it's not enough.

"There has been chronic under-funding, staff have been made redundant, class sizes have increased, there is less one-to-one support and there are fewer subjects to choose from and fewer enrichment activities."

St John Rigby College is the only one in the borough taking part after enough staff backed industrial action for the strike to go ahead.

The NEU is planning further walk-outs on November 5 and November 20 if the situation is not resolved.

Prior to the strike day the Department for Education described the NEU industrial action as "disappointing".

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