Northern Ireland news

NI Children's Commissioner: 'Paramount' pupils sitting exams are not impacted by bus strike

NI Commissioner for Children and Young People Koulla Yiasouma. Picture by David Young/PA Wire

IT is "paramount" that pupils in Northern Ireland sitting external exams are not impacted by the planned bus strike next week, the children's commissioner has said.

Koulla Yiasouma has called for "special considerations" so pupils, particularly those taking GCSE, AS and A-level exams, can get to school.

It comes amid fears of a complete shutdown of bus services across the north, after drivers voted for strike action in a dispute over pay.

A planned strike last month by the GMB and Unite unions was called off after Translink made a revised pay offer.

But the public transport operator has now said the two unions have voted to go ahead with industrial action for seven days from May 17 to 23.

The action, which will include drivers, cleaners and shunters, could potentially leave 55,000 school children without transport for a week.

Next week will see pupils sitting the first summer GCSE, AS and A-levels held since 2019, with exams in English, Maths, Geography, History and Irish among those set to take place next week.

Ms Yiasouma said "special considerations for young people" were needed during the strike action.

"I do not underestimate the financial pressures that workers, and indeed their families, are under especially considering the soaring cost of living," she said.

"Every child deserves a decent standard of living.

"Children and young people have suffered throughout this pandemic, not least because of missing education and it is imperative that they do not miss anymore unnecessarily.

"Young people will also be travelling to school to undertake the first external exams in over two years and it is paramount that no action affects their ability to do that.

"I reiterate my recent statement on a separate industrial action when an interim resolution was made in the interests of our children and young people.

"I do not question a worker’s right to strike, I urge both sides to make special considerations for children and young people and come to an immediate resolution so that children and young people can enjoy their right to a full education.

"My office is engaging with relevant authorities to make sure that all possible contingencies have been considered."

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