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Inspectors cannot guarantee children are safe at schools

Unions that have advised members to stop teaching if inspectors come into their classroom

INSPECTORS are warning parents they cannot guarantee their children are being kept safe at schools - due to a long-running pay dispute.

Teachers and principals are refusing to cooperate with the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).

It is part of action short of strike involving all main teaching unions.

They are angry, having rejected a pay offer that would see staff receive no across the board pay rise for 2015/16, and a 1 per cent cost of living uplift for 2016/17.

Two of the largest unions - the INTO and NASUWT - have taken strike action already and are threatening even more walk-outs.

The Ulster Teachers' Union are among four unions that have advised members to stop teaching if inspectors come into their classroom.

Guidance to members says that inspectors "should respect your right to take lawful industrial action and retreat from the room. Do not feel intimidated by the ETI - they are a visitor to your school and should behave accordingly".

Since the action began, inspectors have begun their visits and reported as usual, but many reports have gaps and contain no overall inspection grade.

Schools including Gaelscoil Uí Dhochartaigh in Strabane, St Dallan's PS in Warrenpoint have been told they now remain "a high priority for future inspection with no further notice".

In its reports, the ETI said it was unable to evaluate outcomes for children with a particular focus on numeracy and literacy and how schools were addressing low attainment and underachievement.

It was also not able to assess the quality of leadership and management, evaluate the the quality of the curriculum or report on the views of parents, staff or children.

In addition, schools "did not provide evidence that satisfactory arrangements are in place for safeguarding learners".

"Owing to the impact of the action short of strike being taken by the principal and teachers, the ETI is unable to assure parents/carers, the wider school community and stakeholders of the quality of education and safeguarding being provided for the children," the reports conclude.

Even though it was made aware prior to the inspections that teachers would not be co-operating, the ETI said it still had a statutory duty to monitor, inspect and report on the quality of education.

"Therefore, the inspection proceeded and the evaluations are based on the evidence as made available at the time of the inspection," the ETI said.

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