Northern Ireland

INTO teachers begin industrial action over pay dispute

Children at school

Members of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) are beginning industrial action in a dispute over pay.

Its members will not take part in any school inspections carried out by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) until further notice.

Two other teaching unions will begin similar action later this month.

They are the Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) and Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

General secretary of the UTU Avril Hall-Callaghan told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme that teachers' resources were already "limited" and time should be spent teaching pupils - not preparing for inspections.

"We've sent a letter to all our members to hand to inspectors in the classroom. It says teachers won't be doing any teaching while they are there," she said.

"Pupils will work independently on something provided by the teacher, and we would hope that the inspector would be sympathetic and leave the classroom at that point so that teachers can get back to work.

"All teachers appreciate that some form of check has to be kept on the system but we also believe that there is far too much bureaucracy."

The INTO had previously announced that its 7,000 members would stage a half-day strike on Wednesday 18 January but are also taking ongoing action short of a strike.

'End co-operation with school inspections'

The ETI carries out a rolling programme of inspections in schools in order to assess the quality of teaching, governance and learning.

A large part of the inspection involves observation of classroom lessons and discussions with teachers.

This will be significantly affected by the industrial action, as the INTO have directed their members not to teach in front of school inspectors or to provide them with any information like lesson plans or work by pupils.

Members of the UTU will also end any co-operation with school inspections on 12 January, while members of the ATL will begin similar action on 16 January.

The NASUWT union - which is already engaged in a series of one day strikes - has not ruled out also ending co-operation with the ETI.

In October, all teaching unions in Northern Ireland rejected an offer that would have seen their pay frozen last year and a rise of 1% for 2016-17.

'Back to the negotiating table'

Education Minister Peter Weir had previously criticised the industrial action.

"I would ask teaching unions to reflect on any planned disruption, as industrial action is not in the interests of children, schools or teachers themselves," he said.

"I would urge them to go back to the negotiating table for future years and to accept that the pay offer they walked away from is not in a position to be improved upon."

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