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Teachers’ union won’t back down on school strike

By Kathryn Torney

The NASUWT said today that it will not back down from its demand that the pupil at the centre of the Movilla High School dispute is taught in isolation or at another school.

The teachers’ union is standing firm on its preconditions despite the parents of the teenager — alleged to have pushed a teacher in May — speaking out about the emotional turmoil the high-profile teachers’ strike has caused to their son.

The school’s 450 pupils have not been able to attend classes since last Monday when the teachers began striking after their pay was docked when they refused to teach the 15-year-old accused of the assault.

A stalemate emerged when the South Eastern Education and Library Board said that it will not give in to the union’s demands.

The Belfast Telegraph reported yesterday that the incident between the teacher and pupil began when the boy and another pupil arrived 15 minutes late for a class.

The teacher said they would have to stay behind and make up their time.

The boy got up to leave at the end of the class and the teacher stood in the doorway and blocked his way with his arm. The teenager pushed the teacher's arm aside and walked out of the class.

In a specially-recorded interview for the Nolan Live show, the unnamed parents spoke of the trauma the incident has caused to their son and also revealed that another son, their eldest, had committed suicide earlier this year.

Speaking from the picket line this morning, NASUWT executive member Fred Brown said that the union was willing to put the pay issue aside as long as the teachers had a safe and secure environment to teach in.

He confirmed they were still insisting that the pupil needs to be taught in isolation or at another school.

“We were dismayed to see the pupil’s problems being paraded through the media. He could not possibly return to the school now,” he said.

“I am a special needs teacher and it must now be clear to everyone that this pupil has quite severe needs which no reasonable person is going to think can be met in a normal classroom.”

In a statement issued last night, the SEELB said it deeply regrets that no resolution has yet been found to the dispute.

Another meeting between the board and the union is due to take place at the Labour Relations Agency tomorrow.

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