Thoughts on a slow-motion catastrophe – Making up for lost ground? By Mark Langhammer, Northern Ireland regional secretary
NEU Northern Ireland has a staff of four Regional Officials campaigning to ensure that the Northern Ireland Assembly and education authorities provide the best for education professional and pupils in every educational institution in Northern Ireland.
Agreement on teachers' pay and conditions of service is reached through the Teachers' Salaries and Conditions of Service Committee (Schools) which comprises the employing authorities/employer representatives, the Department of Education (DE) and the five recognised teachers' unions NEU is one of the five unions that make up the Northern Ireland Teachers Council (NITC).
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Latest announcement from Education Minister
Peter Weir, NI Education Minister, communication stated:
From Monday 23 March, we will start to facilitate a limited opening of schools for the children (up to year ten) of the children of at least ONE KEY WORKER. This is with the sole purpose of facilitating those Key Workers remaining in work to help fight the virus for all of us.
However, this should ONLY be used by key workers when there is NO OTHER VIABLE OPTION to make alternative arrangements to look after their children.
We want to keep the children looked after in school to a minimum.
- If you are not a key worker - DON’T send your child to school
- If your child is medically vulnerable - DON’T send your child to school
- If you are self isolating - DON’T send your child to school
- If you can make alternative arrangements to look after your children through a partner/relative/other means - DON’T send your child to school
Reps update in advance of schools closing Monday 23 March
For now teachers should report to school as normal - unless otherwise directed - with the exception of teachers with underlying health issues who should seek advice from an appropriate medical practitioner and follow their advice.
Our understanding is this includes those who are suffering from:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, heart disease, kidney disease; liver disease
- chronic neurological conditions
- a weakened immune system
- eligibility for a flu vaccine
Pregnant women have been advised as of the evening of March 16th by the Prime Minister not to attend school and to self-isolate. NEU members who are themselves pregnant should follow this advice.
Teachers who are prevented from attending their normal place of work due to COVID-19 will receive their normal salary.
We are advised that there will be a Ministerial Statement later today. That statement is expected to provide an update on the announcement that a limited number of schools in Northern Ireland will remain open from Monday for the children of healthcare, and other key workers. We understand that a list of key workers is currently being compiled.
The Ministerial is also expected to set out arrangements for how other pupils would be taught ‘through online resources’. The Minster has already indicated that the aim is for teaching to continue, and we will need to clarify how this will impact on the working arrangements for teachers through to the end of the academic year.
We will issue more advice to members to take account of the information in the Ministerial Statement.
Free CPD offer: 'Teaching and Supporting Remote Learners Online'
NEU members, Cecilia O'Hagan and Audrey Currie, from Stranmillis University College, have developed and made available to teachers 'Teaching and Supporting Remote Learners online' specifically as a community contribution to support teachers working from home during the Covid-19 crisis.
This 4-week Professional Learning course has been designed by the College at this time to support educational professionals working from home during the suspension of teaching in NI schools and colleges.
The focus of the course is on the promotion of ‘teacher presence’ for all children, using simple technology skills such as webinar and video lessons. This is a supportive course for teachers to enhance the wellbeing of children and young people while working from home.
The course is free, and we thank Celia and Audrey for this generous initiative at a difficult time.
NI teachers’ pay dispute update - January 2020
The NI Executive and Assembly is now back up and running. We are in the process of taking account of the new Departmental Ministers emerging and the “New Deal, New Approach” settlement that have been accepted as the basis of a return to devolved Government.
With a new Education Minister, Peter Weir, in place, the tentative agreement made with education employers last June on teachers’ pay can now be progressed.
The immediate steps are:
- the Department of Finance approve the cost of settling the teachers pay deal, circa £70 million;
- the Department of Education and education employers make a formal offer to NEU and other teachers unions;
- NEU and other unions ballot members to determine whether the deal is acceptable. In the case of NEU, the ballot will be by electronic poll;
- during the balloting period there is likely to be a series of joint-union information sessions – effectively “Town-Hall” meetings – to explain the deal, as well as school-based meeting at schools with large NEU memberships;
- if the deal is accepted through ballot, industrial action will come to an end – at the point at which teachers are paid (not from the date of agreement).
Advice and guidance
We have revised, and reissued, our NEU industrial action advice for the 2019/2020 academic year which comprises:
- Industrial action guidance for 2019/2020;
- Specific guidance on non co-operation with inspections and the inspectorate; and
- Specific guidance on non co-operation with end of key stage assessment .
You will note that the guidance on school inspections, and the ETI inspectorate, has changed in response to potential and anticipated revised guidance being issued to inspectors (essentially in anticipation of a more invasive form of inspection during industrial action).
Twelve points on exam cancellation for GCSEs, AS, A-levels and International Baccalaureate
NEU members are strongly advised, until further notice, to withdraw co-operation from the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).
NEU considers that the DE/CCEA designed assessment process places an unreasonable workload on teachers. The arrangements encroach significantly into the teaching and learning time of pupils and teachers.
NEU will continue industrial action in response to the Government’s derisory pay offer of zero per cent.