Northern Ireland

Education system at breaking point, say striking teachers

Teachers belonging to the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) pictured at Queen's University Students' Union today. Picture by Hugh Russell 
Teachers belonging to the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) pictured at Queen's University Students' Union today. Picture by Hugh Russell 

The education system in Northern Ireland is at "breaking point", striking trade unionists have warned.

Thousands of members of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) staged a half-day walkout in a dispute over pay. Around 800 schools across the country were affected.

INTO representative Seamus Hanna said: "An education system that has been underfunded and relies of teachers to patch it up and pay for the resources that schools need from their own pockets is failing our pupils.

"This education system is at breaking point with a lack of resources and personnel shortages, which is leading to continual increases in teacher workload.

"The unwillingness of our politicians to properly fund schools is what is failing our pupils."

Some schools closed while those with fewer INTO members operated as normal.

In October, the five main teaching unions rejected an offer freezing their pay from 2015/16 and giving a rise of 1% in 2016/17.

NASUWT members in Belfast and Newtownabbey held a one-day strike on November 30.

On January 31, more action is planned in Derry City, Strabane, Mid Ulster, Fermanagh and Omagh council areas.

Education Authority chief executive Gavin Boyd said: "It is difficult to see what can be achieved by this action other than a loss of pay by teachers and disruption for schools, pupils and parents.

"The employers remain committed to engaging in intensive negotiations to attempt to resolve issues connected with industrial action.

"We are encouraged with the agreement to hold further talks.

"In this context, we urge the teaching unions to end all industrial action and to commit fully to negotiations as agreed."