THOUSANDS of teachers in the South West are spending Thursday on strike and many schools have closed or partially closed for the day as a result.
Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) are taking industrial action over adverse changes by the Government to teachers' pay, pensions, working conditions and jobs.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: "The overwhelming majority of teachers in all four regions [South West, North East and Cumbria, South East, and London] will be on strike today.
"Teachers are committed and dedicated public service workers. They do not take strike action lightly.
"No teacher has any wish to inconvenience parents or disrupt pupils' education, but this action is not the failure or due to the unreasonableness of teachers.
"It is the failure and unreasonableness of the Secretary of State, who day-in-day-out is disrupting the education of children and young people through his attacks on the teaching profession.
"We continue to appeal to the Secretary of State to acknowledge the real and deep concerns of teachers and commit to engage constructively in discussions to seek to resolve the dispute."
The action is part of a rolling programme of national strike action which was preceded by strike action in the North West in June and in the East, Yorkshire and Humberside, East and West Midlands regions on October 1.
A Rally for Education was held in Totnes on Wednesday in order to give local teachers, parents, governors and students the opportunity to discuss the issues that have led to the decision to strike.
Nearly 30 people attended the hour-and-a-half-long event at South Devon Arts Centre, which was chaired by rally co-organiser, teacher and parent Alex Moore.
Speakers included NUT division support officer Reuben Wallace, sixth form students Isaac Moss and Ian Carter, parent and former governor Patrick Cooper, teacher and parent Jennifer Poole, and teacher, NUT rep and rally co-organiser Jonathan Mason. They all supported the strike action.
Some of the wider concerns raised about the education service included the increasing use of unqualified and untrained staff, the narrowing of the curriculum, often at the expense of the arts, and cuts in local education funding with resources being diverted into the academy and free school programme instead.
Mr Mason said: "We're aware the strike will cause inconvenience but we feel there aren't any other options. This is only the second time I've been involved in a strike in 20 years, and last time it had an impact. We're doing this because we care about education.
"Einstein said not everything that's important can be measured and not everything that can be measured is important. There's an endless amount of target-setting going on. Sometimes data can be useful but it feels sometimes like data has become the most important thing and we've lost the child in the middle."
Devon County Council has a list of school closures within its authority at devonschoolclosures.info. A list of school closures within Torbay can be found below.
TORBAY SCHOOLS FULLY CLOSED ON THURSDAY:
Curledge Street Academy
Oldway Primary School
Roselands Primary School
White Rock Primary School
TORBAY SCHOOLS PARTIALLY CLOSED ON THURSDAY:
Barton Hill Academy
Eden Park Primary School
Homelands Primary School
Kings Ash Academy
Paignton Community and Sports Academy
Priory Roman Catholic Primary School
Sherwell Valley Primary School
St Cuthbert Mayne Joint Catholic and Church of England School
St Margaret Clitherow Catholic Primary School
Watcombe Primary School