Bruton to cut China trip short over ASTI strike row
Education Minister Richard Bruton is cutting short a visit to China because of the row that is threatening to close about 500 second-level schools.
Mr Burton is leading a major trade delegation as part of a €500m plan to bring thousands more international students to Ireland.
Mr Bruton is flying out today and was due to return next Tuesday, but, in a change of plan, he will now return on Friday morning.
Meanwhile, the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) has accepted an invitation to talks with Department of Education officials tomorrow after their announcement of industrial action in pursuit of full and early restoration of austerity era pay cuts.
The ASTI is threatening seven one-day strikes, between October 27 and December 7, as well as withdrawal from supervision and substitution duties from November 7.
Teachers' refusal to do supervision and substitution may result in up to two-thirds of second-level schools not re-opening after the Hallowe'en break because of a lack of cover.
School managers are meeting Department of Education officials today to discuss plans for external supervisors to replace teachers from November 7.
However, it will be extremely difficult to put any contingency plan in place because of the November 7 deadline - which does not allow enough time to recruit and vet external personnel - and an ASTI's refusal to allow principals to help put alternative arrangements in place.