Ulster Teachers’ Union members will join colleagues across Northern Ireland for a second day of strike action on Wednesday April 26.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts we feel we’ve been forced into this as we have until now used every other means possible to improve things for children and teachers here yet no-one seems willing or able to listen,” said UTU General Secretary Jacquie White.

“Our action is about much more than teachers’ pay, though without a realistic salary structure – one reflecting that of our colleagues elsewhere in the UK – we will struggle to attract the best teachers.

“Already we’re experiencing a brain drain. Why would a newly qualified teacher with thousands of pounds of student debt take a job here when just across in Scotland their starting salary is immediately £10,000 higher!

“Teachers are angry that their fears for the future of the system here have fallen on deaf ears for so many years now.

“The latest budgetary savings we’re being expected to make are unconscionable and it’s our most vulnerable children who are bearing the brunt.

“Children seem to be absent in every decision coming from either the Department of Education of the Education Authority. Where is the child in all of this?

“The situation is bleak. If the powers that be refuse to listen to teachers we are facing devastation to our education system the like of which has never been seen before.”

Her views were echoed by outgoing UTU President Louise Creelman, a teacher at Bushvalley Primary, Ballymoney.

Speaking the union conference this weekend in Limavady, she highlighted the challenges facing her colleagues.

“Unless we take a strong stance on the funding crisis in education, its ongoing demise will be certain and swift,” she said.

 “Strike action is not convenient for anyone – it feels awkward and on some levels, it is uncomfortable.  However, we were striking for our profession, for our colleagues, for our pupils and most importantly for the sustainment and security of our education system in Northern Ireland. 

“Someone has to be the voice for education and therefore it is so encouraging that we are all standing in solidarity, saying enough is enough, moving forward together.

“The message is loud and clear – education deserves better.”