Education news

Inspectors able to give school safety assurances despite teachers' action

All main teaching unions withdrew cooperation with ETI as part of action short of strike

INSPECTORS have been able to provide parents with assurances that schools are safe for children despite industrial action by teachers, it has emerged.

The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) has said it has been unable to compete dozens of inspection reports so far this year.

All main teaching unions withdrew cooperation as part of action short of a strike, which began in January.

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

Guidance to teachers 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 visits and reported as usual, but many reports have gaps and contain no overall inspection grade.

In many reports they also warn parents they cannot guarantee their children are being kept safe.

Reports conclude: "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."

In each report, the inspectorate adds that it will "return to the school within six weeks to evaluate and report on the arrangements for safeguarding".

The Department of Education confirmed that all schools who had not been able to demonstrate arrangements for safeguarding had received follow-up inspections, adding that "the prioritisation of future inspection activity with no further notice is a matter that will be taken forward by the ETI".

Since action short of strike began in January, 51 schools did not provide safeguarding evidence "at the original point of inspection".

It has now emerged that they did when inspectors returned.

"These schools received follow-up visits during which they provided the necessary evidence and assurance to the ETI," a department spokeswoman said.

NASUWT national official for Northern Ireland Justin McCamphill insisted that the action was continuing.

"Parents should be assured that schools are a safe place for their children," he said.

"Almost no school is being fully inspected - inspectors are not visiting classrooms.

"This was all a response to the 0 per cent offer. Our rolling strike was postponed for the assembly election, but is still live. The problem is there is no minister to sign off on any deal."

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