Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

School strike close to a deal

The end is in sight for the Movilla High School strike, with hundreds of pupils expected to return to classes after the Halloween break ends next week.

Both sides in the dispute were last night hammering out the final points of the deal, which will bring an end to weeks of uncertainty and bitter recrimination.

Representatives of the teaching union, the NASUWT, and the South Eastern Education and Library Board remained tight-lipped last night about what exactly a resolution might entail, but said they were hopeful of a positive outcome.

It is understood a proposal was put to the NASUWT by the board yesterday, and that was being considered by the union last night.

The revised proposal focuses on the sticking point of the independent assessment report on the child at the centre of the dispute — which the union has insisted on seeing before agreeing to end its high profile industrial action.

Jerry Bartlett, Deputy General Secretary of the NASUWT, said: “We are absolutely confident that we are going to reach agreement on suspension of the dispute.”

Meanwhile, chief executive of the SEELB Stanton Sloan said: “We remain hopeful that a solution can be found which will enable pupils and staff to return to school next week.”

Education Minister Caitríona Ruane said she too was hopeful that the school will reopen after the Halloween break.

“NASUWT had identified one issue as preventing the strike from being suspended. I understand that the South Eastern Education and Library Board has now made a proposal to the union that it believes satisfies this demand,” she said.

“I am hopeful that the union will soon announce the suspension of the strike to allow the teachers to return next Monday so pupils, particularly those due to sit exams, can resume their full timetable.

“My department is currently in the process of identifying an independent assessor to assess the educational needs of the individual pupil. The assessment will commence soon and I hope we are nearing the end of this dispute.”

An agreement will bring to an end almost three weeks of industrial action, which has seen more than 500 pupils out of class.

The 25 striking teachers first took to the picket line at the Newtownards school 17 days ago.after their pay was docked for refusing to teach a student accused of assaulting a teacher.

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