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Strike school pupils to miss three weeks as row sours further

By Kathryn Torney and Jonathan McCambridge

The Education Board embroiled in the Movilla High School crisis has revealed that an offer to have the boy at the centre of the dispute assessed by an educational psychologist was rejected as relations with striking teachers soured further yesterday.

The South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) Chief Executive Stanton Sloan hit out at the NASUWT for announcing to the media that strike action is set to continue. However, the union claimed the SEELB had refused to negotiate on proposals they had put forward.

The school is set to break for Halloween. When it is over pupils will have been out of class for three weeks. The 25 teachers took to the picket line last Monday 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.

Yesterday teachers at Movilla pledged to continue with their strike action.

The NASUWT claims the SEELB refused to negotiate on three proposals put forward by the union despite the arrangements they suggest — which include moving the pupil to another school — all being used before in Northern Ireland and the UK.

Following “careful consideration”, the NASUWT said it is withdrawing a proposal for the pupil to be taught in isolation at Movilla High. This leaves the options of the boy moving to an alternative individual education programme or another school.

The union’s statement added: “NASUWT resolves many problems of this type on a routine basis without the necessity of recourse to industrial action. It is entirely the fault of the SEELB that relationships with the Movilla employer have broken down.”

It added that the union’s representatives are available for further talks with the board “as soon as our employer tables constructive proposals for negotiation”.

But Mr Sloan hit back angrily, saying he was “gravely disappointed” the union had announced their plans through the media.

“At an early meeting with the Labour Relations Agency, both sides agreed that no comment would be made through the media. This has been honoured by the board.”

He then said the board made an offer for an independent assessment to be carried out by an educational psychologist on the boy’s needs. The pupil would have remained out of school while the assessment was being carried out and both sides would have to accept its findings.

Mr Sloan added: “The union has requested copies of the educational psychologist’s report. Such a report contains sensitive personal data and the release would clearly be a breach of data protection legislation and human rights and cannot be agreed to.”

Fred Brown, of the union, said they rejected the deal because they would not be able to see the report on the boy.

"We couldn't possibly accept the recommendations under those circumstances," he said.

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