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Pupil at centre of school strike


22/10/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

The pupil at the centre of a teachers' strike which has forced the closure of a school is to face a criminal prosecution.

Both sides in the Movilla High School dispute are due to meet today in a bid to reach a resolution to industrial action being taken by 25 staff.

Pupils have remained at home since last Monday when teachers went out on strike after having their pay docked for refusing to teach a boy they claim assaulted a member of staff.

Yesterday, the Public Prosecution Service said the 15-year-old pupil would appear in a juvenile court next month. The decision followed an investigation by police.

Peter Scott from the NASUWT union said the teacher in question "didn't want it to go as far as prosecution in the interests of the pupil".

The parents of the child, meanwhile, appeared on television on Monday to speak of the trauma the incident caused their son.

The unnamed couple revealed that the boy had been affected by the death of a brother, who died by suicide earlier this year.

The NASUWT had proposed that the child could remain at Movilla but be taught in isolation with dedicated specialist staff.

It also suggested an individual education plan and for the pupil to be educated elsewhere in specialist provision where there are places available.

It had been hoped that a settlement would be reached at the Labour Relations Agency last week. Employers and unions failed to reach agreement on Thursday during negotiations that lasted nine hours and talks on Friday ended with no resolution.

The NASUWT offered to suspend the strike action immediately for 28 days if the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) agreed that the pupil would not return to school while a resolution was found.

The SEELB last night said talks between the two sides were adjourned last week "by mutual consent" to allow the board to do further work.

"Board officers worked tirelessly over the weekend examining all options available to resolve the dispute and were in constant contact with the Labour Relations Agency," a spokesman said.

"The board has not been in a position to enter into public discussions concerning the details of the allegations at the centre of this dispute in order to protect the identity of the pupil concerned."

He added that the board was "doing all in its power" to find a resolution.



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