Wiltshire teachers spoke of struggling to heat their homes and crying in corridors as more than 100 people gathered to support their strike in a rally.

At least 59 schools across Wiltshire and Swindon have seen partial or full closures due to the strike on Wednesday.

Many striking teachers gathered at Chippenham Town Hall, to listen to speakers from the local branch of the National Education Union, as well as other teachers and pupils.

Teacher and equalities officer for the union, Sophie Townsend, says she has struggled to heat her home and had to sell her car because her wages have not kept pace with the cost of living.

“Private renting and bills are expensive but how on earth am I meant to get on the property ladder? I’m 34-years-old and I’m nowhere near that ladder," she said.

“During the cold snap there was ice forming on my walls. I’m on the higher end of the pay scale and I’m saving money now but that’s because I’m only heating my house for two hours a day.

“I no longer have a car because I couldn’t afford to keep it anymore, so I had to get rid of it, I drove here today in my sister’s car.”

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Wiltshire's NEU secretary Mike Harrison was one of several speakers.Wiltshire's NEU secretary Mike Harrison was one of several speakers. (Image: Newsquest)

While a pay rise of 5% for teachers was announced last summer, the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates their wages have fallen by 12% since 2010 in real terms.

Teachers are also arguing that they are being overworked due to schools being underfunded. They fear this is pushing people out of the profession and will impact children.

Nikki Butterworth, a teacher for 20 years, said: “I’ve seen the best of the profession leave. People have retired or left senior posts while fantastic new teachers leave within the first couple of years.

“I’ve seen people crying in corridors because they can’t work any harder. Enough is enough now, I’m getting tired.

“This is the first time I’ve ever gone on strike but I needed to do this to support my colleagues and to let people know that I’m tired and there has to be a change.”

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The rally was also attended by parents and pupils.The rally was also attended by parents and pupils. (Image: Newsquest)

Janine Mead, a teacher from a primary school in Frome who attended the rally, agreed that teachers are facing unsustainable conditions.

She added: “I believe that teachers are not supported or looked after and it’s only getting worse. I know some teachers who are struggling.

“The resources are being massively squeezed. I’ve just had to apply for a £500 grant for sciences because we can’t afford any more resources. You have to source money and that’s extra workload, and it all piles up.”

A further criticism being levelled at the 5% pay rise by Tom Hill and Mike Harrison, the joint secretaries for the Wiltshire branch of the NEU, is that it has not been funded with new money. Instead it has been taken out of schools’ already stretched resources.

Mr Hill said: “Management in schools across Wiltshire and the country are finding it really difficult to make ends meet in terms of financing staffing with the money they’re getting. This is going to affect children’s education.”

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald:

Ms Townsend added that she is currently teaching both year three and year four, because her school could not afford teachers for both, and that she has spent £10 on whiteboard pens in the last month because the school does not have any.

The strike received support from one Hardenhuish year 11 pupil, named Verity, who spoke at the meeting.

She said: “It’s not just about my exam results, I have amazing teachers who help me with everything, and I’ve seen so many fantastic teachers leave. Knowing that they feel like they can’t carry on with the workload is heartbreaking.”