Tynwald question about industrial action in schools

By Gemma Nettle   |   Reporter   |
Thursday 22nd September 2022 12:26 pm
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Ballakermeen High School in Douglas ()

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An urgent question has also been scheduled for this afternoon’s (Thursday’s) sitting of Tynwald about industrial action currently affecting schools.

Douglas East MHK Joney Faragher will ask Education Minister Julie Edge if she will provide an update.

Two high schools have been forced to close to certain year groups this week due to industrial action.

With the dispute between teachers’ union NASUWT and the Department of Education, Sport and Culture over pay continuing, the DESC asked the union to reconsider its action short of strike action, which means its members now refuse to cover break times.

The government said in a statement that it was worried for the safety of students.

It said: ‘While the department managed to find cover last week to ensure students were safe – this is no longer sustainable and means some schools might be forced to close to certain year groups this week as the safety of students cannot be guaranteed.

‘In this situation parents will be contacted directly by their child’s head teacher.’

In light of this, Ballakermeen High School and St Ninian’s High School have outlined plans for year groups to work from home over the coming weeks.

Ballakermeen headteacher Graeme Corrin wrote to parents to inform them the school could not ‘operate safely’ throughout the whole school day.

St Ninian’s headteacher Chris Coole also said: ‘Despite a concerted effort to explore all other sustainable solutions to this, the escalation in the industrial action means we are currently unable to operate the school safely throughout the whole school day which has left us with no other option.’

The DESC said it was ‘deeply disappointed’ that the NASUWT continue to escalate the list of actions its members will not carry out, ‘especially following the implementation of the London fringe pay scales and an additional Isle of Man weighting of 1%’.

This saw all teachers receive an uplift between 2% to 7.6% and was backdated to September 1, 2021.

The National Education Union (NEU) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) both accepted the offer in May and the department made arrangements to pay teachers and lecturers, using the improved pay scales, from July 2022.

The arrears from September 2021 were paid last month.

According to the government, this arrangement was set against a backdrop of a pay freeze for UK teachers in 2021, however, the department sought to ‘find the best way to recognise and reward the hard work and dedication of the island’s teachers and lecturers’.

In July, it was recommended that teachers across the UK would benefit from pay increases of between 5% and 8.9% from September 2022.

This proposal will be verified at the end of the month as the UK Government fully accepted pay recommendations from the independent School Teachers Review Body (STRB) for the next academic year.

Pay talks with all recognised teaching unions will start once the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) has been ratified following these recommendations.

These pay talks are currently scheduled for October.

The government has said it’s ‘unsure as to what the continued escalation at this point will achieve’ and is ‘concerned that without appropriate cover at break times, the safety of students will be put at risk and schools could have to take the necessary action, including sending year groups home’.

It added: ‘Schools will endeavour to operate as normal during this escalation and the safeguarding and wellbeing of children will continue to be at the heart of all decision making.

‘The department continues to invest in the workforce, recognising the value of the profession and the role it plays in the future of our young people and education across the island whilst remaining committed to actively engage with all unions.’

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach told the Manx Independent: ‘The DESC should urgently take the opportunity to engage in meaningful negotiations to seek to resolve this dispute. NASUWT members are continuing to focus on teaching and supporting pupils’ education.

‘Responsibility for any disruption in schools rests with the DESC.’

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