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Pupils in limbo over school row

Pupils at a Co Down secondary school still do not know if they will be returning to classes next week after the South Eastern Education and Library Board, and teaching union NASUWT, failed to reach an agreement yesterday.

Both parties met at the Labour Relations Agency for the second day in a row after marathon discussions on Thursday failed to bring an end to the industrial dispute which began at Movilla High School on Monday.

Jerry Bartlett, Deputy General Secretary of the NASUWT, said both sides agreed to adjourn yesterday afternoon and reconvene over the weekend to try to resolve the crisis. He added in order to allow further discussions, the union and board members agreed not to discuss the finer details of the talks with the media.

However, the Belfast Telegraph understands the current stalemate involves discussions on whether the pupil at the centre of the dispute should remain at the school.

Movilla’s 540 pupils have been out of school since the start of the week when teachers took to the picket line after their pay was docked by the SEELB when they refused to teach the pupil.

Mr Bartlett explained his members did not want to take such action but felt they had no other choice because their employers failed to address a serious issue.

He said concerns about the behaviour of the pupil began more than a year ago, and the union had documentary evidence which it says shows the boy accused of |assaulting the teacher posed a health and safety risk to staff and pupils.

“This action was brought out of frustration,” he explained.

“After a year of a series of confrontations and serious incidents, including a serious assault on a pupil and an assault on a union member, they were quite unable to get their employer to do anything effective.

“This child has special needs that must be addressed.

“We believe his needs are being overlooked in all of this.”

Mr Bartlett said the documents obtained by the union show that the pupil poses “a hazard to the health, safety and welfare of students and staff at the school”.

“It shows that the pupil at the centre of this dispute constitutes a high risk in four areas – emotional conduct, anger management, aggression and behaviour,” he claimed.

“We have also discovered among the records written advice to teachers that when this pupil is being confrontational they should move at least three feet away from him.

“We supplied this documentation to the board yesterday.

“It is outrageous that it is left to the teachers' union to supply the board with its own official records.”

A spokesman for the SEELB said the board had no comment to make.

Belfast Telegraph