Thousands of teachers urge politicians to stand up for education
Politicians on the election trail are being lobbied by more than 16,000 teachers in a new campaign.
Three unions - INTO, UTU and ATL - have joined forces to urge all parties to put education at the forefront of their political agenda.
Stand Up For Education highlights education as a human right "legally guaranteed for all children without any discrimination".
The campaign urges politicians to develop a long term strategy where education is protected from cuts and also to develop a Programme For Government in the new assembly which places education at the centre of policy making.
As part of the campaign, teachers are directly asking door-knocking politicians what their party will do to ensure education is well-resourced.
INTO northern secretary Gerry Murphy said the next minister needed to know that the unions would not allow measures imposed on colleagues in England and Wales, such as the non-transference of pay scale points from one school to another, to be imposed in the north.
"We will continue to vigorously oppose, by all means necessary, any changes to the education system that has a negative effect on our members and young people in their care," he said.
"This campaign sets out our priorities. We are demanding politicians take heed of and action a strategy which places education at the centre of policy making.
"INTO, UTU and ATL want the pay of teachers to return to the 2008 level in real terms with reimbursement for the pay loss since 2008 and removal of the power of veto of the minister of finance over teachers' annual cost of living increase."
Since 2010, Mr Murphy said, teachers had experienced a pay freeze for two years and a pay cap of one per cent for a further three years.
"Teachers are working longer for less pay, their pension contributions have risen twice in the last two years, with normal retirement age also rising considerably to age 65, 66 and 67 for some.
"The new government must address these serious issues because the next generation will suffer which will have a detrimental impact on families, the wider community and the overall economy."
UTU general secretary Avril Hall Callaghan said teachers needed to use votes wisely.
"This manifesto highlights the issues which are important for the education service. We hope voters will examine carefully where the parties stand on the issues we have identified before deciding where to cast their vote on Thursday," she said.
"All teachers have been armed with facts and figures as well as a list of questions which our politicians must answer."
ATL director Mark Langhammer added: "Northern Ireland's educational system is the most socially segregated in the developed world.
"To promote better educational outcomes for all we need to improve on socially balanced pupil intakes at school level.
"Socially balanced intakes are proven to enhance educational performance. Our politicians cannot afford to avoid this thorny issue any longer."