Sunday 25 June 2017

Fury mounts as students get set to be locked out

Teachers on strike outside St Mary's College, Dundalk Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Teachers on strike outside St Mary's College, Dundalk Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Allison Bray and Katherine Donnelly

Parents and students are furious over the prospect of indefinite school closures next week affecting around 400 schools due to the ongoing pay dispute by second-level teachers.

Up to 200,000 secondary school students could find themselves locked out of their classrooms when they return after the mid-term break next week if the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) goes ahead with plans to withdraw supervision and substitution duties, even if teachers show up for duty.

A spokesperson for the ASTI said last night that the chance of a breakthrough over the weekend was "receding".

Their industrial action - on top of a series of one-day strikes starting next Tuesday - will force many schools to close because they don't have vetted supervisors available to operate safely.

A number of schools will open on a partial basis, either for the morning only or for selected classes such as exam years.

Overall, more than 400 schools are expected to remain closed for an indefinite period from Monday. To add to the confusion for parents and students, some schools that will manage to open on Monday will close on Tuesday because of a separate, one-day strike by the ASTI on the issue of equal pay scales for newly qualified teachers.

Talks between ASTI leaders and senior Department of Education officials will resume today but no one is holding out any hope of a weekend settlement.

Natascha Fischer Dooley (17), a sixth-year student at Ashton Comprehensive School in Blackrock, Cork, went on RTÉ Radio One's 'Liveline' programme yesterday to "vent her anger" over the impact the dispute will have on students.

Ridiculous

"It's completely ridiculous," she told the Irish Independent last night. "I'm taking the fall for this."

Like many of her classmates at hundreds of schools nationwide, her parents received a letter from the school's board of management this week advising them not to send their child to school from Monday "until further notice" until "the appointment of supervisors has been confirmed".

Natascha, who is sitting her Leaving Cert exams this year, said she was now forced to enrol in online courses in order to keep up with her Spanish and German studies, which she can't do on her own.

Robert Rohu (56) from Waterfall, Co Cork, said his 18-year-old son, who hopes to study mechanical engineering at the Cork Institute of Technology, can't complete the engineering projects he needs to graduate this year without supervision.

"This is his last year and he's put a lot of effort into his studies and he's running out of time. It's a huge distraction. It's making me disrespect teachers even more than I do already," he said.

Irish Independent

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