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Teachers union may take action over comments

By Matthew McCreary

The teaching union embroiled in the ongoing Movilla High School dispute said last night it is considering launching a complaint or even legal action over comments made by Northern Ireland’s Children’s Commissioner.

The union met the Commissioner Patricia Lewsley (right) yesterday over her comments.

Stepping into the dispute and offering to mount an investigation if the strike was called off, the Commissioner said the strike was “tantamount to the corporate abuse of children's rights”.

She added she was aware of the circumstances of the incident involving the boy at the centre of the dispute and said she was concerned teachers were using a minor episode to create a scare story.

“This child's rights, and the rights of every child at that school are being used as bargaining chips,” she said.

The NASUWT, the largest union representing teachers and principals in Northern Ireland, said it has instructed solicitors to seek advice on pursuing a complaint against the Commissioner.

“The Children's Commissioner has made scurrilous and ill-informed allegations against the NASUWT,” claimed Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT.

“Her intervention has made an already difficult situation worse.

“She failed to check her facts and has apparently chosen ill-advisedly to champion one child at the expense of others.

“We are awaiting the advice of our legal representatives on how to challenge these allegations.”

Talks aimed at breaking the deadlock are expected to resume tomorrow.

NASUWT representative Peter Scott said last night: “The employers were apparently at the Labour Relations Agency today and advised they would be coming with proposals on Wednesday. We are prepared to go over there at any time.”

The South Eastern Education and Library Board claimed the union rejected offers and was demanding the pupil be taught in isolation from pupils and teachers in the school or that the particular pupil is asked to leave the school.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane called on employers and unions to talk to resolve the dispute.

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