20th Mar 2020
The Minister’s letter of the 19th March has provided clarification on some issues but raised a myriad of questions on many, many more.
UTU has received a huge volume of emails re the on-going situation and we will respond to each one individually. In the meantime, the following may provide some clarification.
We welcome the statement in the letter regarding pay for all teachers, permanent and temporary. A commitment has been made to honour all working arrangements for substitute teachers whether booked on NISTR already or given verbally. We are, however, advising that substitute teachers gather any evidence available to show the period of time that they had been engaged to work in case it may be required at a later date. Those of you who are on maternity leave, career break, etc, will return to work on the date previously agreed and will resume duties according to whatever practices are in place at that time.
We know that the announcement that external examinations will not be taking place has eased the stress and anxiety for teachers responsible for classes in that category. Plans as to how to move forward in regard to awarding grades are being developed and we are liaising with some post-primary members for input in that regard.
We are expecting further guidance as a matter of priority in respect to the issues of children of key workers and vulnerable children. The definition of a key worker is much wider than originally anticipated and we know that there is concern around the numbers of children implied here and how schools are supposed to cater for them safely in line with PHA guidance.
We are also mindful of the simultaneous support requested for children learning remotely and how this is to be achieved if your time is taken elsewhere. These issues are at the centre of the on-going engagement with the employers. When further guidance is issued, we would welcome your feedback.
It is important that members continue to follow the latest guidance from the Public Health Agency. Teachers who are pregnant, who are in the at-risk group in terms of their own health or have an immediate family member at home in the at-risk group should not be in school. Members in these categories will continue to provide remote learning and support from home in line with their school’s system. Teachers who have symptoms should self-isolate at home.
This is a very challenging time for all in the education system. Whilst we all wish to ‘step up to the mark’ and do the best we can for the children in our care and for wider society it is important that teachers are protected as much as possible in these unprecedented circumstances. UTU will continue to engage with the Department of Education and the employing authorities in the best interests of our members and ensure that you receive the information and support you require and deserve.
We will continue to keep you updated.