Quayle steps into teachers' dispute

Saturday 8th February 2020 6:58 am
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The new Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, holding the first Chief Minister's Press Conference

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Chief Minister Howard Quayle has announced an independent review into the deteriorating relationship between education chiefs and teachers.

The intervention comes as calls have grown for Mr Quayle to step in and try to resolve the row.

However, the review will not cover the current pay dispute. Instead it will examine other issues that have become apparent as the dispute has rumbled on.

Mr Quayle told the House of Keys on Tuesday that the review would run in ’tandem’ with the negotiations on the pay row. Three unions - the NAHT, NASUWT and ASCL - are in dispute with the Department of Education.

A fourth, the NEU, had recommended to its members that they accept an offer from the department, but the membership voted against the deal.

’It has become apparent as these disputes have developed, that there are broader issues underpinning these matters, which might benefit from a critical examination of the governance arrangements within the department and how the department interacts with the schools,’ said Mr Quayle.

’That being so I can confirm my intention for the Council of Ministers to build on the work already being initiated by the department and commission an independent review of these matters, reporting directly to the Council of Ministers.’

However, he later emphasised that Education Minister Graham Cregeen had his confidence.

Mr Quayle said he was not in a position to give full details of the format of the review, or a timescale.

But he added: ’I am not going to rush this - we have got to get this right.’

The NAHT and ASCL have begun industrial action short of a strike, while the NASUWT has indicated it will start industrial action short of a strike from February 24 - after half-term.

Mr Quayle warned there was a possibility that industrial action could affect lunchtimes at schools and parents may have to be called on to look after their children.

He was responding to a question from Daphne Caine (Garff), about the impact of industrial action.

In addition to a possible impact on lunchtimes, he said other action would largely affect staff development and appraisals, along with non-attendance at meetings and a refusal to take part in staff surveys or conduct interviews with supply staff.

’None of these will impact directly on educational delivery in the classroom,’ he said. ’However, there might be a reduction in government’s capacity to monitor schools’ adherence to financial regulations and monitoring of newly qualified teachers could be reduced, which might mean NQTs cannot undertake induction here.’

Mrs Caine asked Mr Quayle whether he was confident there would be a ’fruitful’ conclusion to negotiations in over the current dispute, or could escalate to staff walkouts, ’given the much reported lack of confidence the unions’ representatives say they have in the Department of Education, and also now the dissatisfaction they have expressed about the Manx Industrial Relations Service because of the backdoor deal done with another union (NEU) that was not in dispute’.

The Chief Minister said: ’What is important is that we, as a government, and the unions work together to come to a conclusion on this.

’We have to find a way forward and if we can go the extra mile to get that way then I am fine with that.’

But he added: ’At the end of the day, I would point out that there are circa half a million teachers in England and Wales who have accepted this deal.’

The department had made an offer, similar to moves in the UK, to scrap the lowest pay grades - giving an effective £6,000 pay rise to new starters - and put all teachers on the ’London fringe area’ grading, effectively worth an extra £1,100. That was rejected by the NEU membership, while the other unions remain in dispute. They accuse the department of failing to address their concerns, while Education Minister Graham Cregeen MHK says the unions in dispute had not given enough information on what they wanted.

The NAHT has welcomed the Chief Minister’s announcement of an independent review into the DESC.

The union’s Isle of Man branch president, Max Kelly, said: ’How warm that welcome becomes depends on the scope of the review and terms of reference, the details of which we await with interest.

’The NAHT would also expect that the review is genuinely independent.

;We will be watching closely to see who is appointed to lead the review.

’Obviously it would do little to restore trust and confidence if a consultant or contact already known to DESC, used by DESC, and previously wined and dined by DESC officers, is commissioned to do this piece of work.

’We would also hope that following this announcement of an external review the progression of the draft Education Bill through Tynwald is put on hold. That would seem to make a great deal of sense to our members, and we call on our politicians to consider this carefully.’

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