Northern Ireland

St Patrick's, Belfast: Investigation into teacher surveillance claim

St Patrick's School sign
Image caption It is alleged teachers at St Patrick's were filmed and photographed while out on strike

An investigation is to be carried out into allegations that some teachers at a north Belfast school were put under surveillance.

The allegations concern members of the NASUWT at St Patrick's PS in Pim Street who have been taking strike action.

The union claims staff were subject to surveillance without their consent.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) said that they would carry out an "independent review" of staff concerns.

The union has alleged that the teachers were filmed and photographed while out on strike in November 2018.

Image caption A teachers strike took place outside St Patrick's Primary School in November 2018

BBC News NI has been in contact with the individual alleged to have carried out the surveillance.

They confirmed that they are a former private investigator but, in respect of this incident, denied they had ever been asked or paid to carry out any surveillance.

They added that they would not be sitting in full view if employed to do so.

'Genuine concern'

CCMS said that they hoped the investigation into the allegations would be conducted quickly.

"CCMS and the Board of Governors have been made aware that some teachers in St Patrick's Primary School believe that they may have been subject to a level of surveillance over the period when they first took strike action last November," a spokesperson said.

"CCMS wishes assure all of its teachers that no such surveillance would ever be commissioned by the CCMS or indeed by any Board of Governors.

"However, in this instance we recognise that these particular teachers hold a genuine concern that someone may have been conducting some level of surveillance on them.

"Therefore, CCMS and the Board of Governors have agreed that we should develop proposals for an independent review of the circumstances that give rise to these specific concerns."

CCMS also said that they recognised that the school community would be concerned, but appealed for time and support to investigate the allegations and to resolve the ongoing industrial action.

NASUWT's Northern Ireland national official Justin McCamphill welcomed the investigation.

Image caption NASUWT Northern Ireland national official Justin McCamphill

"These allegations are very serious and are having a detrimental impact on our members' mental health and well-being," he said.

"It's very important that those questions are answered.

"It is intolerable that trade union members who would be taking part in industrial action would be put under surveillance and it's important that we establish what all the facts are around this."

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