Hundreds of schools across Northern Ireland will be hit tomorrow with industrial action by around 12,000 teachers in a row over pay and conditions.
From tomorrow members of the NASUWT union are refusing to cover for absent colleagues, will not carry out administrative tasks and will attend only one meeting after school per week for no more than one hour.
Peter Scott, NASUWT executive member, said around 12,000 of their members will be involved in the action — almost half of the total number of teachers in Northern Ireland.
He said: “We do not want the action to damage the education of children and it won’t.
“The whole purpose of what we are doing is to free teachers up to do what they should be doing which is teach.
“All we are seeking to do is establish conditions of service in Northern Ireland that are the same as England and Wales.
“They do not cover for absent colleagues and bureaucratic tasks are not undertaken by teachers.
“If teachers have to cover other classes, they cannot devote that time to the pupils under their charge.”
The union is also calling for teachers to be given 10% planning, preparation and assessment time, as in England and Wales.
“We also submitted a pay claim a long time ago and we have not had that formally dealt with by the Minister. It is unfortunate that we are having to move into industrial action.
“It is all about driving up standards and there is clear evidence that planning and preparation time and not having to provide cover for colleagues can play a part in this.”
Mr Scott warned that the industrial action could be stepped up.
“If we are not going to be taken seriously then we would have to think about some form of escalation, but we are hopeful that will not be necessary,” he said.
“We have had assurances already that when the Education and Skills Authority gets up and running next year there will be a root and branch look at the whole negotiating machinery.
“That is welcome but we will want some progress on these issues before then.”
Yesterday, a Lisburn school principal warned that primary schools are at breaking point and buckling under the pressure of dealing with dozens of live issues in their schools.
Harry Greer, principal of Harmony Hill Primary, said there was an urgent need for increased funding for the primary sector.