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Commenting on reports made to the NASUWT from several school Health and Safety reps that their employers are deliberately flouting the law in relation to class sizes in practical subjects, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union said:

“The law is very clear no school in Northern Ireland can have more than 20 pupils in a practical subject unless very strict criteria are met. These criteria include a risk assessment which must demonstrate that the classroom is large enough to accommodate the activities. This risk assessment must be approved by governors.

“Furthermore the Building Handbook for schools is explicit in stating that 20 is the maximum allowed in a Technology or Home Economics classroom which is built to the standard size.

“The NASUWT take matters of Health and Safety very seriously and will have no hesitation in reporting individual schools to the Health and Safety Executive NI for flouting the regulations on class size. We will also highlight in the local press which schools are putting our members and the young people they teach in danger.”

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official Northern Ireland, said:

“The blatant disregard for Health and Safety shown by some schools is incredible, they have been warned by the Education Authority that they should not have more than 20 pupils in a Technology or Home Economics classroom but we continue to receive reports of schools trying to force teachers into carrying out practical work where the teacher believes that it is not safe.

“Schools have been told by the Education Authority that ‘If an appropriate risk assessment has not been carried out the Education Authority may not indemnify a governing body in the event of litigation’.

“The NASUWT is not prepared to sit back and allow our members to be teaching in a situation where the Education Authority cannot guarantee that they are indemnified in the case of accident where class size was a contributory factor. We are prepared to take all steps up to and including strike action to protect our members in these schools.”

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