Belfast Telegraph

Education boss's letter has Northern Ireland teachers incensed

By Cate McCurry

Teachers' unions have hit out at Northern Ireland's top education official over his "Trumpesque" response to the ongoing industrial action.

Gavin Boyd issued a strongly-worded letter to teachers and principals in which he criticised the dispute and accused teachers of harming children's education.

The chief executive of the Education Authority (EA) further claimed that teachers in Northern Ireland were better paid than those in England and Wales.

Teachers and unions here have been left angered by the letter, with many saying it was littered with "fake news" and "misleading" information.

Some of the main teaching unions are refusing to co-operate with school inspections after rejecting a pay offer that would see staff receive a 1% rise for 2016-17.

Avril Hall Callaghan of the Ulster Teachers' Union slammed the intervention.

She said: "The letter received by teachers, principals and boards of governors is patronising in tone and content.

"The letter contains a number of assertions which, far from reassuring teachers and their representatives, will serve only to galvanise teachers in their support of ongoing industrial action and undermine further the already difficult industrial relations climate in education.

"The current industrial action has, rather than negatively affected children and young people, given teachers more time to spend tailoring lessons to meet the individual needs of pupils. Having patronised teachers and characterised a very difficult industrial relations climate in a 'Trumpesque' fashion is unhelpful and disrespectful and will make resolving this very difficult dispute more difficult."

Niall Boyle, who has been a teacher for 19 years, said he was "extremely angered" by Mr Boyd's letter.

He insisted the accusations it made were false.

Mr Boyle, who teaches in a Belfast grammar, said: "I would love to know what his evidence is to say that the industrial action is seriously affecting the education of children.

"The kids that I teach have not been affected at all, if anything it has been improved as I have more time to give to them. He's talking nonsense. Some of it reeks of fake news and alternative facts. It's unbelievable.

"The staff in my school are livid about this letter, it's all anyone is talking about.

"The education system has been turned into a business, it's about pounds and pence, not about the kids and their education.

"I urge every teacher in Northern Ireland to write to him and complain, as this is an insult to the profession."

Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, said teachers would not be "persuaded or intimidated".

"The letter from Gavin Boyd will simply infuriate teachers who are continuing to endure the painful reality of real terms cuts to pay, job insecurity and excessive workload, including a punitive inspection system," he said.

"Mr Boyd's letter to teachers and principals cannot hide the facts of the destructive impact of excessive workload on teachers' lives or that the value of teachers' pay has fallen by around 20% since 2010.

"It is a pity that employers and ministers have spent their time denying the concerns of teachers."

Mark Langhammer, ATL director in Northern Ireland, added: "The letter is misleading and disingenuous. Far from affecting the education of pupils, the industrial action that ATL is taking is improving the education of pupils."

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