Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

School strike ad raises eyebrows

Questions were asked last night about the teaching union at the centre of the Movilla High dispute spending funds on a full page advert in the Belfast Telegraph.

The advert — which appeared in all editions of this newspaper yesterday — thanked parents, the local community and the wider public for “the overwhelming support” the 25 teachers on strike have received.

It also stated the teachers from the school in Newtownards are “desperately upset” about the disruption to their pupils' education.

Strangford MLA David McNarry said that the union appeared to be taking “extraordinary steps” in its public relations exercise.

“The union must think it is necessary to take this advert out and to pay for it but I do not think that any member of the public thinks it is necessary.”

A spokesman for the SEELB said: “The board has no issue with the advert being placed. That is a matter for the NASUWT.”

The teachers took to the picket line two weeks ago after their pay was docked for refusing to teach a student who is accused of assaulting a teacher. The pupil is due to appear in court in November on an assault charge.

The union has agreed to abide by recommendations from an independent assessor as long as the pupil remains out of school while negotiations continue.

However, the NASUWT insists that it has sight of the independent report.

However, SEELB chief executive Stanton Sloan has said that it would contain sensitive personal data and so releasing it to the union would “clearly be a breach of data protection legislation and human rights and cannot be agreed to”.

Movilla parents met yesterday with Mr Sloan, as strike action at the school entering its third week.

Mr McNarry said: “There is no doubt that the teachers have great support in the area but the burning question is how long is this going to go on for?

“Parents are already threatening to remove their children from the school.”

Mr McNarry called on the Education Minister to take action in a bid to resolve the dispute.

He said: “I think Caitriona Ruane has enough information in front of her to take some positive action.”

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