Nicky Morgan has said teachers in England are damaging the reputation of their profession by walking out in strikes taking place across the country on Tuesday.
Many schools have been forced to close after the National Union of Teachers called action over education funding under the Conservative government.
Speaking on BBC’s Breakfast programme, the Education Secretary insisted the government had protected the amount spent per pupil in cash terms, leading host Charlie Stayt to ask if she was “suggesting that teachers who are in the classroom every day are making this stuff up”.
Ms Morgan said teachers “do an amazing job”, but described the strike action as “wholly unnecessary”.
“It is unfair on pupils for them to miss a day of education, it is inconvenient for parents and it is unnecessary because the unions are already engaged in talks with me and my department about the issues which they say they care about,” she said.
She said 75 per cent of NUT membership did not support the strike action. “I would say to the NUT, think about the message their action today sends about the profession. Because I don’t think it shows the profession in the best light that they would want and I want people across the country to respect teachers because they do a damn fine job.”
The NUT claims funding to schools is being cut, leading to increased workloads for teachers and bigger class sizes.
It said its members had shown strong support for the strike, and added that it was being backed by many parents.
"Most schools where action is being taken are affected by closures or reduced subjects," said an NUT spokesman.
Acting general secretary Kevin Courtney said: "Schools are facing the worst cuts in funding since the 1970s.
“No parent wants this for their children. No teacher wants this for their school or pupils. With political parties in turmoil since the EU referendum, it is imperative that education is put to the forefront of every election campaign. The problems schools face need addressing immediately. We must not let the education of the next generation be sidelined.”
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