Teachers expected to join industrial action at a secondary school in the North called today for independent mediators to become involved.
The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) must intervene in the growing dispute between striking educators and the authorities at Moville High School in Newtownards, Co Down, trade unionist Mark Langhammer said.
Staff walked out because their pay was docked when they refused to teach a pupil they claim assaulted a colleague.
Ten members of Mr Langhammer’s Association of Teachers and Lecturers union (ATL) are balloting on opting out of teaching the pupil and he called on the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) to make the next move.
“The board has got to reflect on their style of negotiating and they have to get into the LRA,” he said.
“It is about the style of negotiation which the SEELB has insisted on.”
He criticised the decision to open the school yesterday despite 25 members of another union, NASUWT, taking strike action.
“We have taken action three times in recent years, every time over a pupil assault and every time in the South Eastern Board,” he added.
“Why can these sorts of disputes, which are not unusual, be sorted out by every other board but not by the South Eastern?”
The board supported the school governors’ decision not to expel the child.
About 540 pupils at the school in Newtownards arrived for class yesterday, but were sent home.
The board met NASUWT officials a fortnight ago and proposed a range of measures, including recruiting a support worker for the pupil.
It said the incident had been appropriately and proportionately dealt with by the governors.
The board also said it was prepared to meet teachers’ representatives at the Labour Relations Agency but claimed the NASUWT had set out preconditions with which it could not comply.
Children’s Commissioner Patricia Lewsley has also offered to mediate.