This morning’s House of Keys was dominated by the topic of the NASUWT teaching strikes, the first of which will take place tomorrow and Thursday.
After being questioned by Arbory and Castletown MHK Jason Moorhouse about how the strikes will impact students who have free school meals, and if there is a policy in place to ensure that they get a meal, Education Minister Julie Edge said: ‘Appropriate provisions are being made, but they will look different depending on the school setting.’
Rushen MHK Dr Michelle Haywood asked how the department was ensuring student safety, particularly of year groups told to stay at home during the strikes.
Ms Edge responded: ‘For children whose safety is of particular concern, the headteachers will understand the specifics of the situation, so I’m sure they will put a plan in place.’
The minister said that children should have online material for strike days, however, she could not ensure that this is the case.
It was questioned by multiple MHKs whether closing certain schools was an overreaction.
Ms Edge explained that the logistics in every school is significantly different. The headteachers have looked at staffing resources and so are best placed to make decisions to ensure the students are safe.
She said: ‘We don’t know until tomorrow. The union are not obliged to tell us how many teachers are taking part, or what action they are taking. After tomorrow we will have a better understanding of the situation, which will make it easier to make contingency plans moving forward.’
Mr Moorhouse followed up by asking whether there will be safe access to schools.
Ms Edge said: ‘The requirements around picket lines have been circulated, we will work closely with colleagues to make sure that the policy on picket lines will be followed.’
She added: ‘Any staff not taking part in strike action, should have a safe environment to go to work.’
The minister did not address the questions asked to her about if she has an understanding of what policies will resolve the dispute between the Department for Education, Sport and Culture and NASUWT.
However, Ms Edge said: ‘Throughout the last two years we have worked on improving conditions for teachers. This includes policies that will help with professional development, health and wellbeing support and lifting the starting salary to £36,000 which I believe is between an eight and nine percent increase.’
She added: ‘We recognise the value of the profession and we remain committed to resolving the dispute.’