Thousands at Gove protest rallies
Thousands of teachers have taken to the streets to express their anger at Education Secretary Michael Gove during a strike in protest at changes to pay and pensions.
The one-day walk-out by members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT affected schools in 49 local authorities in the East Midlands, East of England, West Midlands, and Yorkshire and Humberside.
Rallies in Birmingham, Sheffield and Cambridge attracted the support of teachers from across the strike-hit areas, with many carrying banners calling for Mr Gove to be removed from his post.
Speaking before the rally in Birmingham, which was attended by around 2,500 people, the vice-president on the NUT, Max Hyde, said teachers were angry about numerous aspects of the Government's education policy.
Acknowledging that many of those at the rally were angry at what they feel is Mr Gove's personal "disregard" for their profession, Ms Hyde said: "This strike is about our concerns about what Mr Gove is doing to education, about teachers' working conditions, about his mission to deregulate pay, and also to restore our pensions.
"Teachers are very angry at the moment.
"We have taken a very, very difficult step to come out on strike because Mr Gove is not listening to us."
Teachers had exhausted every other avenue prior to taking strike action, Ms Hyde claimed, adding: "I know it's very, very disruptive for parents but we want parents to get angry with the man who's causing this - and that's Mr Gove.
"It's very difficult to take action when it affects people that you are close to.
"In general the public have a high regard for teachers and if we explain why we are taking this action then I'm sure they will understand and they will join us in saying 'enough is enough - we want a better future for our children'.
"We want teachers to have fair pay for what they do, and a good education system for all our children, not just some of our children."
As well as pay and pension reforms, many teachers voiced concerns at the decision to permit schools to employ non-qualified teaching staff and introduce performance-related pay.
NUT member Simon Debenham, who teaches at Birmingham's Heath Mount Primary School, said: "The teaching profession is being massively attacked and undermined by an education secretary who doesn't listen to the profession, a man who has a very blinkered vision based on his own education.
"He is trying to impose his vision on children without consultation and without listening to genuine concerns."
The industrial action was condemned by the Government, which defended its plans to reform pay structures.
A DfE spokeswoman said: "It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are striking over the Government's measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more."
A recent poll found that 61% of those questioned backed linking teachers' pay to performance - a key Government reform currently being introduced - she insisted, adding that the survey also found that majority of respondents were opposed to the walkouts or thought teachers should not be allowed to strike.
"All strikes will do is disrupt parents' lives, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession," the spokeswoman said.
The first regional walkout took place in the North West on June 27, and further strikes are expected to take place on October 17 in the North East, South East, South West and London.
Plans for a national one-day walkout before Christmas have also been announced by the two unions.