STRIKING staff at a sixth form centre say funding cuts have left them teaching longer hours and bigger classes

Teaching staff at Queen Elizabeth (QE) Sixth Form, in Darlington, were on the picket line today after voting to strike because of funding cuts to the sector, affecting a number of classes.

About 35 members of the National Education Union (NEU) at the college say they are taking action ahead of next month's budget.

The union says funding has been cut by about 20 per cent since 2008.

The Government is increasing funding for sixth forms by £400m from September, but striking staff say it is less than half of what has been cut since 2008.

NEU representative Giles Bayliss, who is a law teacher at the college, said: "They ring-fenced under 16 funding and protected it but post-16 funding wasn’t protected.

"Sixth form colleges are relatively invisible. They are a small portion of the sector."

He added: "Striking is always difficult in education because we don't want to impact on the education of young people but in terms of the ultimate goal we think it's going to benefit young people if we can increase funding.

"It's about parity. If school sixth forms are getting funding on a different basis, we don't want to disadvantage young people on the basis of what college they go to."

Geography teacher Simon Nicholson said: "We are teaching more classes. The college is delivering, it produces some fantastic results but increasingly on a shoestring.

"We are all very committed to the students. We are a loyal and hardworking group of people. Most students would agree with that and regard us highly. But what they get from us is in spite of, rather than because, of the the funding we are being given."

Education minister Michelle Donelan said: “It is very disappointing that the NEU has decided to take further strike action in sixth form colleges and 16-19 academies.The decision to strike is especially disappointing given that we have committed to increasing 16-19 funding in the 2020/21 academic year by £400 million - the biggest injection of new money in a single year since 2010. This is in addition to funding the additional costs of pension schemes in 2020/21.

“We are committed to an ongoing dialogue with the National Education Union and I have already met with the joint general secretaries to discuss how we can avoid disruptive strike action.”

Further strikes are planned for February 27 and March 10.