Classroom Strike Violates Human Rights Of My Kids

The mother of two pupils who have special educational needs today said her children are being denied their human rights as a result of the classroom assistants’ dispute.

Coleraine woman Natasha McClelland has contacted the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission regarding the industrial action and called on the Education Minister to intervene to ensure her children do not miss out on any more schooling.

Two of her three children – eight-year-old Joel and four-year-old Natalia, who both have learning disabilities – are pupils at DH Christie Memorial School in Coleraine and have so far missed seven days as a result of the series of strikes.

Ms McClelland said: “Joel has learning disabilities, mobile weaknesses and speech and language problems and is in the special unit at Christie, while Natalia has quite severe speech problems and has a classroom assistant so I’m having to care for them as a result of the strike.

“It’s a real struggle. I can’t work because I have to look after them and I’m having to think of things for them to do to keep them stimulated. They miss the social interaction.

“I fully back the classroom assistants. The work they do is invaluable but I feel let down by the Education Minister. I rang her office and asked to speak to her about it but was told that she wasn’t available to take calls. She might not be directly involved in the negotiations but she is our Education Minister so I feel this is her responsibility.

“I have spoken to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) because I feel that this would be a different situation if it were mainstream pupils being affected. I know the special needs children are a small minority but I feel they are being discriminated against because of their problems.”

Ms McClelland also said her children are missing out on vital support such as speech and mobility therapy which is supplied by their school.

“The therapists come into the school so while the children are missing school they are missing out on that as well,” she said.

“Their human rights are being violated in every way possible – their rights to education, social interaction, their health and welfare needs – are not being met.

“If I rang the school and said I was taking my children away to America for a fortnight during the school term I would be held accountable so I want to know who is accountable for the position that we are in now.

“The boards may be negotiating with the unions but they have to answer to the minister so I hold her responsible.”

A spokesman from the Northern Ireland (HRC) confirmed that the organisation could examine whether a breach of human rights has occurred as a result of the industrial action.