Parents and pupils at a school closed for two weeks because of a strike by teachers called today for the North’s Education Minister to step in.
More than 30 parents together with pupils demonstrated at the gate of Movilla High School in Newtownards, County Down, over the failure of the local education board and teachers’ union to resolve the dispute.
Members of the NASUWT went on strike on Monday last week when the South-Eastern Education and Library Board stopped paying them because of their refusal to teach a boy who they claimed had assaulted a teacher.
The teenager is due to appear in juvenile court in relation to the incident, police confirmed this week.
After talks yesterday between the union and the education board under the auspices of the Labour Relations Agency failed to resolve the dispute, parents demanded minister Caitriona Ruane intervene.
Parent Karen Robinson said: “We want the minister to come down here to the school, we want the board to come here and we want the minister to intervene and tell the board enough is enough.
“We had been led to believe this was about a young lad at the school – it’s nothing to do with that.
“It is about the money for special needs children and the spending cuts the board is making.”
Mrs Robinson, speaking on behalf of other parents, said they had held talks with the NASUWT representatives at the school gate today and now wanted to see the board.
“We are supporting the children, we want the teachers back in the school and if this is not resolved by the end of half-term next week we will have every parent and every pupil outside this school protesting.
“The union said the teachers want back, the parents want them back, the pupils want to go back – so what’s the problem?
“We want the board down here so we can ask them what they’re going to do about it, only the board can sort this out.”
She said most parents worked and it was causing havoc for them trying to provide childcare while still keeping their jobs.
Her son, James, is due to sit GCSE exams next month and she said he was getting worried that the school would not be open.