More than 50 school pupils have signed a letter to MHKs in a plea for the government to resolve the dispute with a teachers’ union.
This comes as a response to the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) strikes, which are due to start later this month, and continue on a number of individual days in a pay dispute.
The strikes will take place November 30, December 1, January 11, January 12, February 15 and February 16.
The letter, written by a 17-year-old and signed by year 13 schoolmates, says: ‘Over the past four years we as students have been severely impacted in our education, not just because of Covid, but more importantly because of the action-short-of-strike action, and now the strikes that are to take place.
‘At my high school there are only four teachers in the entire teaching staff who currently aren’t part of NASUWT. This means on November 30 and December 1 as well as the dates in January and February school will be closed to us.’
The student continues: ‘As students we are suffering. Recently one of our teachers was off school for three weeks. Normally when this is the case work would be set for us so we don’t fall behind, however due to the action short of strike action, no work was set, meaning we have now fallen significantly behind and with the upcoming strikes there is a real worry we won’t finish the course before our exams in May.
‘It has been made extremely clear to us that if it takes us as a year group receiving lower-than-expected A-level results because no help can be given outside of lesson times, and work is being marked at a slower than usual pace if even marked at all. If it takes that for the government to finally offer a deal that NASUWT will accept, then as teachers the majority of them are content with that.’
Julie Edge, Minister for Education, Sports and Culture, said: ‘I understand and share the concerns that parents, children and young people will have over this strike action and the disruption it will cause to learning. I want to assure them that we are making every effort to limit the disruption on the strike days.’
She added: ‘I believe we have made a fair and generous pay offer to our teachers. We are continuing our efforts to resolve this dispute and we will keep the public updated on any developments.’
The Department for Education, Sports and Culture said: ‘Every effort is being made to keep schools open during six days of strikes planned by teachers who are members of the trade union NASUWT, but asking students not to attend school on strike days cannot be ruled out.’
In a letter to parents, St Ninian’s headteacher Chris Coole said: ‘As the scale of this strike action has not been confirmed to the department, this has made it difficult for schools to contingency plan.
‘As such, planning for the first two dates is being carried out on a worst case scenario basis so please prepare for the possibility that students may be asked to remain at home on those days.’
Mr Coole added: ‘I fully understand the impact that this could have on our children, young people and families and I appreciate the disruption that may occur.
‘I do not take these very difficult decisions lightly however, all of which will be made with the safety and wellbeing of all of the children at the school in mind.’
Ashley Hill’s headteacher Peter Lewis plans to open as normal: ‘The scale of this strike action has not been confirmed to the department and, whilst this has made it challenging for us to construct a contingency plan, I do expect Ashley Hill to be open for “business as usual” on Wednesday, November 30, and Thursday, December 1.’
In the meantime, final year school students have concerns over how the strikes will impact their A level results.
The letter written by the student said: ‘Our exam boards are all on a national scale, meaning that in the summer exam series we will be competing with students in the UK who haven’t any union disputes between their teachers and the government.’
‘Therefore, they have received after-school support, the marking of work, and most importantly the teaching of full courses in a classroom. We will receive no special consideration and will therefore be at a huge disadvantage.’
Staff who are members of the National Association of Head Teachers, the National Education Union, the Association of School and College Leaders and the University and College Union are not taking part in the strike action.
Those unions have agreed terms with the department.
The department has implemented 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.
At the time the Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: ‘Taking into account the rate of inflation, this pay award represents the largest single annual real terms cut to teachers’ pay in the Isle of Man since 2010.’