Department of Education must intervene to ensure adoption of progressive policies by all schools in Northern Ireland

Taryn Trainor, Regional Equalities and Women’s Officer, Unite

Union highlights concerns over the low numbers of schools installing Education Authority carbon dioxide monitors and providing free period dignity products

As a result of contacts from education workers, Unite has identified that there has been a very low uptake of both free period dignity products and carbon dioxide sensors supplied free of charge by the Education Authority. The situation arises as a direct result of the ‘light-touch’ approach to schools’ policy by the Department of Education which means that the rollout of progressive policies is dependent on already overburdened management at individual schools. 

Unite Equalities and Women’s Officer, Taryn Trainor, spoke on the need for a comprehensive approach to roll-out period dignity products in schools across Northern Ireland.

“Unfortunately Stormont’s approach leaves pupils and workers dependent on the willingness and capacity of management in their local school to avail of, and adopt, progressive policies. If the resources dedicated to address period dignity in schools are not fully drawn down this year, this money is not likely to be available next year. We risk missing what is a huge opportunity to benefit low-income girls and persons needing sanitary products.”

Kieran Ellison

The carbon dioxide sensors detect concentrations of the colourless and clear gas which can act as a proxy to identify when an enclosed space needs more ventilation to help mitigate the risk of Covid transmission. The installation of carbon dioxide sensors by schools has been promoted by the Education Authority as a means to reduce risk of transmission in classrooms and to education workers. Unite regional officer for the education sector, Kieran Ellison, explained,

“This measure is too important to be left to individual schools – where management are often under such pressures that there is a missed opportunity to roll-out new measures and policies. Our members continue to work on the frontlines in education; they deserve better.

“The Education Minister must intervene to end the light touch approach to education policy – which leaves it as a lottery which measures are adopted by a particular school. We need to see the same rights and protections extended to pupils and workers at all schools in Northern Ireland – and that means a comprehensive approach from the Department of Education”, he concluded.

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