Belfast Telegraph

Principals may ballot for industrial action over education 'crisis'

Head teachers in Northern Ireland could move towards industrial action in the aftermath of a report warning of a crisis in the education system
Head teachers in Northern Ireland could move towards industrial action in the aftermath of a report warning of a crisis in the education system
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Head teachers in Northern Ireland could move towards industrial action in the aftermath of a report warning of a crisis in the education system.

It comes after a powerful Westminster committee called for an increase to Northern Ireland's education budget and the introduction of regulations previously agreed by the Stormont Assembly before its collapse. The stark message was set out in a report earlier this week by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, which warned that a growing funding gap has resulted in "unmanageable pressures" on school budgets.

The rising number of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) pupils is a key driver of the trend, MPs said.

Geri Cameron, who represents the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), says "nothing has been done" to alleviate the real and present difficulties facing Northern Ireland's education service.

Ms Cameron, who is principal at Loughshore Education Centre in Newtownabbey, added: "Schools in Northern Ireland have suffered the worst real-time cuts of all department-funded education services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"At the same time, school leader members of NAHT (NI) have been subjected to significant increases in workload and pressure including the action short of a strike implemented by teachers' Unions in 2011.

"Members of NAHT (NI) have been attempting to navigate cuts to budgets, industrial action by colleagues and the consequences of a defunct Assembly, with no pay increase, no support and in an unreasonable environment.

"And of course, ultimately it is the children and young people in our care who lose out the most."

Over 90% of NAHT (NI) members voted in favour of industrial action in an indicative ballot in January, citing workload and wellbeing as significant to the dispute.

Ms Cameron warned that should her members' concerns "not be taken seriously and immediately", they will go to ballot and vote in favour of industrial action in September.

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