BY A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT THIRTY-SEVEN teachers in four Durham Catholic schools were suspended last week by the school governors for refusing to teach classes of more than 30 pupils. The governors were advised to take this action by Fr. H. Olsen, chairman of the Hexham and Newcastle Diocesan Schools Commission, and Mr. R. F. Cunningham, secretary of the Catholic Education Council.
In a statement last week they said: "On the basis of the legal advice we have received the appropriate course of action is for the governors to suspend the teachers concerned, and we have advised them in this sense. We regret very much the necessity for this but in the circumstances see no alternative."
Durham Local Education Authority and the National Association of Schoolmasters have beenin dispute following protest anion earlier in the year by the N.A.S. The main form which this took was a refusal to teach classes in secondary schools with a registered size of over 30.
The education authority
informed certain N.A.S. members teaching in county schools that they had repudiated their contracts and could not be permitted to attend the schools until ready to resume normal duties.
The point now at issue is whether the teachers, on return to duty, should receive payment for the intervening period. Fr. Olsen and Mr. Cunningham say in their statement on the Catholic schools: "We have emphasised to the N.A.S. representatives the difficulties which have resulted from their action in the four schools and have pointed out that their members have no dispute with the governors of the schools, who are their legal employers.
"Despite this difference between the position in the county schools and the Catholic schools, the N.A.S. representatives have felt unable to recommend their members to return to normal duties. We regret very much this decision, and hope they will reconsider it.
"We will always be ready to resume talks with them, if there is any prospect of fruitful result. In our view the action by the N.A.S. members in the four schools amounts to a breach of the terms of their
employment which the governors cannot overlook."