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Strike row boy back at Movilla

The pupil at the centre of the high-profile Movilla High School dispute is to return to the school, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today.

Twenty-five teachers at the Co Down school went on strike last term after their pay was docked when they refused to teach the 15-year-old pupil who was accused of assaulting a teacher.

The 539 schoolchildren eventually returned to class in November after three weeks of bitter confrontation between the education board and the teaching union.

It was agreed the pupil at the centre of the storm — who has not been named publicly — would not return to class until an independent assessment had been carried out on his needs.

Both sides in the dispute — the education board and teaching union — agreed to abide by the assessor’s recommendations following negotiations facilitated by the Labour Relations Agency.

The South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) confirmed an independent assessment of the schoolboy’s needs has been completed — but stressed the detail of the report would not be made public.

The NASUWT teaching union has also refused to divulge any information on the report’s content.

However, the Belfast Telegraph can confirm that the pupil is to return to school one day a week.

It is understood that the independent assessor concluded the boy’s needs could be met within a mainstream school — but did not state whether or not this should be at Movilla High.

However, the Telegraph has learned that an agreement has been reached which includes reintegrating the schoolboy into the Newtownards school one day a week.

It can also be revealed that both the board and union are working towards an education package which will involve the boy training on an employer’s premises for part of each week, some intensive education off school premises and work on mainstream education subjects (including English and Maths) one day at week at Movilla High.

Until full agreement has been reached on the package, the teachers at the school have agreed to co-operate with reintegrating him into the school one day a week.

A spokesman for the SEELB said: “The independent assessment has been completed. As agreed by all parties, no details of the report have been made public, due to the personal nature of such an assessment.”

The NASUWT insisted on having restricted confidential access to the assessor’s report before suspending the strike action and has reserved the right to return to the picket line if the terms of the deal are not honoured.

At the height of the dispute, it is understood that the SEELB considered placing the Movilla High pupils in other local schools.

The board’s chief executive Stanton Sloan wrote in an article published in the Belfast Telegraph in October: “I cannot countenance having 540 pupils out of school and therefore I now must consider all of the options in front of me to ensure these pupils receive the education to which they are entitled.”

Belfast Telegraph